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    Why good disease prevention protocol is critical

    Although the significance of good infection control should be obvious, a refresher is always helpful.

    There are things in life that one just accepts as a truism: Always wear a seatbelt; don’t smoke; never look directly at the sun. No one has to be told why; we just accept these things as fact. That same acceptance extends into dental practices when we talk about the importance of good disease prevention.

    Although the significance of good infection control should be obvious, a refresher is always helpful.


    The most obvious reason for good infection prevention is, of course, the safety of both patients and staff.

    Read more: How to stay up to date on infection control policies

    “Because patient safety is paramount. It’s critical,” says Leann Keefer, RDH, director, corporate education and professional relations at Crosstex International. “There’s no other way around it. As healthcare providers, we have a moral, legal and ethical responsibility to make sure that the procedures, the products and the instruments that we are using are the best for patient care. I’m passionate about infection control, but sometimes we can become complacent because we do this day-in and day-out. And that’s where we need to stay on our toes and to keep that level of awareness, using best practices and not slipping into common practices and cutting corners.”

    While patient safety is important, staff safety is equally essential.

    “I think that sometimes part of the complacency is we forget that we’ve got the safety of the staff to think about, too,” Keefer says. “We are exposed to bioaerosols every day. At Crosstex, our trademark quote is, ‘Because you can’t see sterile.’ Most staff members don’t think, ‘I need to wear a face mask when I’m turning a room because there are aerosols that can linger for up to 30 minutes following use of the ultrasonic scaler.’”

    It can be easy to become complacent, especially when nothing bad has ever happened at the office. But just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean that something can’t happen in the future.

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    Disease prevention“Not to be morbid, but people say, ‘I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I don’t have to change,’ but there are stark realities,” Keefer says. “In the fall of 2013, the first documented report in the United States of a patient-to-patient transmission of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) associated with a dental office was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) due to a flagrant infection control breach by an oral surgeon in Tulsa [Oklahoma]. In 2012, a case report in The Lancet detailed the death of an 82-year-old woman in Italy due to rapid and irreversible septic shock, which was caused by Legionnaires' disease, traced to the contaminated dental unit water of the high-speed handpiece equipment used for her dental surgery shortly before her death. This tragic incident happened after only two visits to her dentist in a two-week period.

    “This is very real. At times, while some of these infections may not be life-threatening, they may be misdiagnosed as the patient having a fever or upper respiratory infection, for example. They’re not thinking about how it can be related to exposure from a dental office.”

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    Robert Elsenpeter
    Robert Elsenpeter is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Dental Products Report and Digital Esthetics. He is also the author ...


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