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Q&A with Kara Vavrosky, RDH, on infection control and dental hygienists

Modern Hygienistmodernhygienist.com-2014-06-01
Issue 6

I recently had the chance to sit down and chat with Kara Vavrosky, RDH, who is an accomplished dental hygienist. She runs the popular Facebook page, Dental Hygiene with Kara RDH and is also the founder of DentalHygieneAnswers.com, a question and answer platform for dental hygienists.

I recently had the chance to sit down and chat with Kara Vavrosky, RDH, who is an accomplished dental hygienist. She runs the popular Facebook page, Dental Hygiene with Kara RDH and is also the founder of DentalHygieneAnswers.com, a question and answer platform for dental hygienists.

Describing herself as a lifelong perfectionist with a touch of OCD, dental hygiene was the natural career choice for Kara. Her extreme organizational ability and eye for efficiency makes Kara a top performing hygienist. Graduating from the Oregon Institute of Technology, Kara currently works for a one-doctor, family-oriented practice in Portland, Ore. Her consistent focus on quality oral care has made her a favorite hygienist among her many patients. Never content to just “get the job done,” Kara makes an extra effort with all her patients to educate them on the importance of oral health and how it relates to the health of their entire body.

Additionally, Kara serves on the Scientific Advisory Board of GoodMouth, a toothbrush subscription service that delivers a new toothbrush right when the old one needs to be replaced. Kara also serves on the Advisory Board of Support Clean Dentistry.

Kevin Henry: In your opinion, what are some of the main challenges with infection control that hygienists face today?

Kara Vavrosky: I think one of the biggest challenges with infection control that hygienists face today is staying up-to-date on the latest recommendations related to infection control protocols. What was previously seen as a best practice can be shown through studies to actually be sub-optimal. This is the case with bib clips. For the longest time, it was thought that just wiping them down was adequate for disinfection. Now studies show up to 70% of bib clips still retain bacteria after they are wiped down with a disinfectant.

Henry: What are some of the most common infection control mistakes you see hygienists making?
Vavrosky: Every hygienist I know takes infection control very seriously. However, there can be some things that get overlooked due to our focus on the treatment of the patient. Specifically, it can be easy to overlook heat sterilization of handpieces between patients, sterilizing instruments loose and then afterwards putting them into a pouch, bib clips not being properly sterilized, and not doing weekly spore tests to ensure the sterilizer is working properly. Generally speaking, it can sometimes be difficult for hygienists to change to a new recommendation because it’s not what they first learned in school.

Henry: In your opinion, do you think patients are more worried about a dental practice being "safe and clean" than in previous years?

Vavrosky: I think patients are much more aware of the need to keep things safe and clean in all aspects of their life. The rise in the use of hand sanitizers shows people are concerned about this. Patients have an expectation that their visits to the dentist will be safe and clean, and dental practices have the responsibility to do everything they can to meet those expectations.

Henry: What role should the hygienist play with an infection control conversation with a patient who may have questions?
Vavrosky: A big part of a hygienist’s job is patient education, including answering any questions a patient may have. The hygienist should be knowledgeable in proper infection control protocols because he or she is practicing them in the office, so ideally the hygienist should be able to put any patient worries to rest. Being on the front line with patients, hygienists are an excellent resource for patients and should encourage their patients to ask questions.   

Henry: What do you see as the main message of the "Support Clean Dentistry" campaign?
Vavrosky: The main message of the Support Clean Dentistry campaign is for both patients and dental professionals to be aware of areas where infection control can be improved around the office. The more awareness is raised, the more likely dental practices will stay up-to-date with proper infection control protocols. A safe and clean dental office provides for a better patient experience, and a better work environment for all dental professionals.

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