A Higher Level of Patient Safety Isn’t Just for These Pandemic Days
Posted on Wednesday, March 18th, 2020
As we write this, the world has gotten a whole lot quieter in these new days of social distancing.
But not everything is closed – including our office. Though we ask that clients with a cough or fever or who have been exposed to coronavirus-positive folks stay at home and reschedule their appointments further into the future, we remain committed to our patient/clients who need us during these turbulent times.
Some biological dentists have remarked that our offices are actually well-suited for the present moment. Our mercury-safe practices, for instance, mean our offices are already fit out with powerful air purifiers and filters, and we have always emphasized supporting good immune function and resilience of the body’s greater regulatory system.
Yes, we’ve added hand sanitizers around the office, and we’re doing enhanced cleaning and disinfection throughout the day, as well as at the end of it. It’s only reasonable in these days of intensified concern.
But universal precautions are standard procedure for us – for infection control isn’t something you should pay attention to only during a pandemic but every day, for your safety and ours alike.
As any properly run dental office in this state, we regularly follow the infection control procedures spelled out in the California Code of Regulations. We review and update our minimum infection control standards every year. A copy of this is conspicuously posted in our office.
All instruments are in good working order and sterilized before every use. They are first run through an ultrasonic unit, then air dried and packaged for sterilization. A chemical indicator is used to confirm that essential sterilization parameters have been met. External indicators on each package also verify that the instruments have been sterilized.
Proper functioning of the sterilizer is verified weekly by a third party through the use of a biological indicator. These test results are documented and maintained for 12 months.
We fill our dental unit waterlines with distilled water at the start of each day. The water lines are purged with air and flushed with water for at least 2 minutes before we attach hand pieces, scalers, and air water syringe tips. These lines and devices are thoroughly flushed between each patient, as well.
Single-use disposable items such as prophylaxis brushes, saliva ejectors, air/water syringe tips, and gloves are used for one patient only and then properly discarded. All non-critical items such as the dental chair, light, and countertops are wiped down, cleaned and disinfected with a Cal/EPA-registered hospital low-level disinfectant that is labeled effective against HBV and HIV, as well as a tuberculocide.
The clean, white towels we use to protect our patients’ eyes from any particulate – including dead or diseased tissue – that may become airborne during a procedure are used once only and then thoroughly sanitized before being used again; likewise, the towels we use in lieu of plasticized dental bibs for keeping the patient dry. (Towels are far more environmentally friendly, as well!)
While the phrase “first do no harm” isn’t actually a part of the Hippocratic Oath, it is a guiding principle in everything we do. For as we noted before, if your goal is to help a person heal, the last thing you want to do is throw impediments in the way. Hence, our emphasis on patient safety in all realms – from choosing biocompatible dental materials to favoring minimally invasive procedures to practicing good infection control.
It’s the right thing to do.
Image by Tea, two sugars, via Flickr