Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, 2020 has been a year of challenges. For dental offices, ensuring a safe, sterile environment and providing protection for both staff and patients is the norm. Now, though, in today’s era of the pandemic it could very well be a matter of life and death.
Dentists, dental assistants, and hygienists wear disposable protective coverings, such as face masks, gloves, and protective eyewear, for every procedure. More often than not, when they remove their protection, it’s coated with a layer of what appears to be dust, but is actually airborne droplets, particles, and microbes that were launched into the air during procedures. Dental offices are notoriously dusty. After a procedure, dental assistants must clean every surface and perform infection control procedures before seating the next patient.
A dental practice is a business, and like any business it must be profitable. Dentists know exactly how many patients they must see per day and assistants only have minutes between patients to prepare treatment rooms. With today’s need for additional infection control, finding the most time effective room preparation and infection protection methods is a must. With this in mind, we have a few recommendations that may be helpful.
Treatment Room Infection Control:
Disposable Covers & Sleeves
Making use of one-time use dental equipment covers and sleeves eliminates the need to wipe down and sterilize surfaces. These clear plastic sheaths are made to cover a variety of items found in dental treatment rooms. The most popular options are: half chair sleeves, headrest covers, procedure tray sleeves, X-Ray head covers, digital X-Ray sensor sleeves, and syringe sleeves. After a procedure, simply replace with a new cover and dispose of the old one. Using these disposable dental equipment covers and sleeves will significantly reduce room preparation time between patients.
Typically, the only drawback to using plastic disposable sleeves is the fact that they eventually wind up in a landfill. In their quest to provide eco-friendly products, PlastCare USA discovered and recently launched a line of biodegradable disposable tray covers and sleeves. They are made of oxo-biodegradable plastic, which contains an additive called TDPA (totally degradable plastics additive). TDPA is added during the manufacturing process and works to break down discarded plastic to carbon dioxide, water, humus and trace elements when touched with dirt and water. This earth friendly process makes it possible to use disposable plastic dental sleeves and covers without making a permanent contribution to landfills.
To cover hard to reach areas that are difficult to clean, we suggest using barrier film. Available in a large roll with perforated tear off sheets, barrier film will cover hard to reach and difficult to clean areas during dental procedures.
Dentist and Staff Protection
For full body protection, we recommend dentists, hygienists, and dental assistants wear disposable surgical isolation gowns. Popular with medical surgeons and surgical technicians, these disposable gowns cover the body from just below the neck down thighs or knees (depends on wearer height). The sleeves are closed in with ribbed knit cuffs to prevent fluids from traveling up the arms and most feature a backside vent and back tie closure that allows the wearer to adjust according to body size. Made of latex free non woven material, isolation gowns are water resistant and provide excellent full body protection from fluid splashes, airborne particles, and microbes during dental procedures.
ASTM Rated Disposable Ear Loop Face Masks
Wearing ASTM rated face masks is always the wisest choice for dental professionals, however, due to the Covid 19 pandemic, the current recommendation is to always wear ASTM Level 3 rated face masks. ASTM Level 1 face masks are designed for procedures involving a low threat of contamination and splashes of blood or fluids. ASTM Level 2 face masks provide increased protection for procedures involving moderate amounts of blood and fluids. ASTM Level 3 rating is for high threats of contact with fluids and or blood or a high threat of exposure to airborne microbes.
There are two disposable glove options, Nitrile or Latex. Nitrile gloves are more durable and provide stronger resistance to chemicals. Latex gloves are more flexible but are not as strong as Nitrile. Due to their flexibility, dentists and hygienists might prefer Latex over Nitrile. We recommend all dental team members wear Nitrile gloves for maximum protection.
Research and Learn
When choosing infection control products, the most important thing to do is to take the time to learn about each product you intend to purchase. Dental product distributors will provide data sheets for the products they sell. Ask for them and take the time to read and make sure they meet the safety standards set forth for your dental practice. In today’s America, when it comes to infection control, it’s not about comparing prices and looking for the best buy for your budget, it has become more important to spend time researching and comparing safety features and ratings, in order to find products that ensure the safety of both dental staff and patients.