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Robert Elsenpeter is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Dental Products Report and Digital Esthetics. He is also the author of 18 technology books, including the award-winning Green IT: Reduce Your Information System's Environmental Impact While Adding to the Bottom Line. As such, he’s particularly interested in the technological side of dentistry.
There’s a wealth of information out there for infection control and COVID-19, just make sure it’s coming from trusted, reliable sources.
Dentists and hygienists learn about infection control in school, but the learning doesn’t stop there. There is so much to keep up on that staying current can become its own chore. Happily, however, the internet contains ample resources to provide the information that they need. Not only can they keep up on current trends, but there are also refreshers on the basics, should those be necessary.
The internet is a big place, and there is no lack of information at one’s fingertips—for better or worse. With so much information out there, it’s necessary to remember that it’s not always accurate, evidence-based information. Finding reliable, trustworthy information is crucial. Consider the barrage of COVID-19 details.
“Sometimes we’ve forgotten that when this disease first came to our attention, back in January and February, that it was referred to as the ‘Novel Coronavirus’, because it was new and all the virus information was so new,” Jackie Dorst, RDH, BS, observes. Dorst is a “Safe Practices” infection prevention consultant and speaker. “Guidance and prevention is changing as there’s more data collected, more contact investigations, and more research coming out of the dental schools and the research laboratories. We’ve been overwhelmed with the volume of changing information to the point that we question almost everything that we hear, and we don’t know where to put our confidence. So it is important to go to those trustworthy resources and the living documents, the ones that are updated as there is new information.”
Centers for Disease Control
“Naturally, the number one source for infection control is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” Mary Borg-Bartlett, President SafeLink Consulting, observes. “CDC publishes recommendations that protect patients and workers. CDC recently updated the guidelines on COVID-19 for dentistry, so all dental practices need to review this information.”
Borg-Bartlett recommends the following CDC links for dental practices to use as a resource when setting up their infection control practices:
Of course, in this day and age, no compilation of resources would be complete without mention of COVID-19 and how dental practices can deal with it. Dorst recommends the following links:
ADA Return to Work Toolkit – ADA’s Advisory Task Force on Dental Practice Recovery offers a free toolkit to help practices manage returning to providing non-emergent care. Items covered in the toolkit include:
CDC offers its own resources for dental practices when managing the pandemic. Dorst recommends the following resources:
CDC Appendix 1: Risk Assessment for Healthcare Workers Exposed to Persons with COVID-19 – In the event a team member is exposed to a patient (or other individual) with COVID-19, this worksheet can help assess the level of risk for exposure. www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/appendix-1-hcw-risk-assessment-tool.pdf
CDC guidance for asymptomatic HCP who were exposed to individuals with confirmed COVID-19 – To help assist with the assessment of risk and application of work restrictions for asymptomatic team members with potential exposure to patients, visitors, or other confirmed COVID-19 individuals, CDC offers the guidance at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/guidance-risk-assesment-hcp.html
CDC COVID-19 Guidance for Dental Settings – Based on current information, CDC offers interim guidance for dental practices during the COVID-19 pandemic. www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/dental-settings.html
“National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is under the CDC and is responsible for providing guidance on the effectiveness of PPE that will protect workers ,” Borg-Bartlett adds. “It is especially helpful now, in regard to protection from COVID-19, since respirators are in use in dental practices where, prior to COVID-19, they were not typically used.” www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/ppe-strategy/index.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fhcp%2Fhealthcare-supply-ppe-index.html
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers its own resources that can help practices navigate the current PPE climate.
“OSHA is another source for infection control as far as safety of workers,” Borg-Bartlett says. “The primary document that pertains to preventing exposure to blood and other body fluids is the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard 29 CFR 1910.1030” – www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/1910.1030
“This standard requires development of an Exposure Control Plan that must include Methods of Compliance such as engineering controls, work practice controls, use of PPE, containment of sharps, regulated waste containment, laundry of PPE, off of Hepatitis B vaccine, post exposure evaluation, biohazard labeling, worker training, etc,” Borg-Bartlett says. Other useful OSHA resources include:
The internet is a great place for information, but always make sure to get information from trusted, reliable sources.
“I heard a quote in a vaccine webinar, and one of the doctors said, ‘Unfortunately, we have science by social media now,’ and it’s not always really science,” Dorst says. “It’s not established trustworthy information. Years ago, they used to be referred to as ‘urban myths’. Now, it’s referred to as ‘social media myths’. There’s so much unknown, and the apprehension motivates people to look for the silver bullet. Unfortunately, we don’t have a silver bullet at this time. So, out of desperation and fear of the unknown, people have gravitated to what is on social media. And it’s not always trustworthy.”