Infection Control in Dental Clinics: Compliance with Australian Standards

Infection Control in Dental Clinics: Compliance with Australian Standards

In a world marked by unprecedented challenges, the importance of stringent infection control measures in dental clinics cannot be overstated.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of infection control in dental clinics. The COVID-19 pandemic has compelled us to reevaluate and reinforce our protocols to ensure the safety of both dental practitioners and patients.

Dental practitioners are exposed to various biological hazards, such as blood, saliva, and aerosols, that can transmit infectious diseases. Therefore, it is essential to follow the Australian standards for infection prevention and control in dentistry, which provide guidelines for personal protective equipment, sterilisation of instruments, environmental cleaning, and waste management.

This blog post will address COVID-19 Protocols, Sterilization Techniques, and Ongoing Hygiene Measures for Dental Practices in Australia.

We will also address through this blog some of the myths and realities of infection control in dental clinics and discuss the challenges in this area. We will also explain how Web99 can help you achieve compliance with Australian standards and ensure the safety of your staff and patients.

Let’s start the discussion with Myths and Realities….

Some common myths and misconceptions about infection control in dental clinics are:

Myth: Due to high hygiene standards, dental clinics are at low risk for COVID-19 transmission.

Reality: Dental clinics are at high risk for COVID-19 due to close contact and aerosol generation. ADA protocols are essential, including PPE use, screening, and extra precautions like mouth rinses and suction.

Myth: Dental instruments are always sterilised and pose no cross-contamination risk.

Reality: Instruments vary in risk; critical and semi-critical need sterilisation, and non-critical need cleaning and disinfection per Australian standards.

Myth: Dental clinics don’t need regular cleaning since patients don’t contaminate surfaces.

Reality: Dental clinics must clean regularly to prevent contamination from blood, saliva, aerosols, or dust. As per Australian standards, specific cleaning schedules apply to clinical contact surfaces, non-clinical surfaces, and dental equipment.

COVID-19 Protocols: Shaping the Future of Dental Care

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of infection control in dental clinics and the challenges and opportunities for improvement. Dental practitioners have a duty of care to protect themselves, their staff, and their patients from the risk of infection transmission.

The Australian Dental Association (ADA) has developed comprehensive guidelines for infection control in dentistry. Below are the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Australian Guidelines for the Prevention and Control of Infection in Healthcare.

  • Hand hygiene
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Environmental cleaning and disinfection
  • Sterilization of reusable instruments and equipment
  • Management of sharps and clinical waste
  • Immunization of dental staff
  • Screening and triage of patients
  • Management of exposure incidents and outbreaks

These protocols have safeguarded patients and ensured the uninterrupted delivery of essential dental services.

Dental clinics have implemented pre-appointment health screenings to identify potential COVID-19 cases, helping in early detection and preventing the spread of the virus. The use of PPE, including face shields, gowns, and N95 masks, has become a routine practice to minimise the risk of transmission.

Sterilisation Techniques: The Backbone of Infection Control

One of the critical aspects of infection control in dental clinics is sterilising reusable instruments and equipment. According to the ADA guidelines, dental practitioners must follow a four-step process to ensure effective sterilisation:

  • Cleaning: removing visible soil and organic matter from instruments and equipment using water, detergent, and mechanical action (such as scrubbing or ultrasonic cleaning).
  • Disinfection: reducing the number of microorganisms on instruments and equipment using a chemical agent (such as alcohol or chlorine) or heat (such as boiling or steam).
  • Packaging: wrapping or placing instruments and equipment in containers that maintain sterility until use.
  • Sterilization: destroying all microorganisms on instruments and equipment using a validated method (such as autoclaving, dry heat, or ethylene oxide gas).

The ADA guidelines specify the minimum standards for each step and the requirements for monitoring, testing, recording, and storing sterilised items. Dental practitioners must also ensure that they use only TGA-approved sterilisers and disinfectants and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for operation and maintenance.

Ongoing Hygiene Measures

Another important aspect of infection control in dental clinics is the ongoing hygiene measures for dental staff and patients. These include:

  • Performing hand hygiene before and after every patient contact, using soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wearing appropriate PPE, such as gloves, masks, eye protection, and gowns, depending on the risk of blood or body fluids exposure.
  • Changing PPE between patients and disposing of it appropriately.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and equipment that may have contaminated blood or body fluids, such as dental chairs, trays, lights, switches, keyboards, etc.
  • Educating patients about the importance of oral hygiene, cough etiquette, respiratory hygiene, and social distancing.
  • Asking patients to rinse their mouth with an antiseptic mouthwash before any dental procedure that may generate aerosols.
  • Rescheduling appointments for patients with symptoms or exposure to COVID-19 or referring them to appropriate health services.

By following these infection control measures, dental practitioners can ensure safe and quality patient care while protecting themselves and their staff from potential harm. Compliance with Australian standards is a legal obligation and a professional responsibility for dental practitioners. It is also a way of building trust and confidence among patients and the public.

Challenges in Infection Control in Dental Clinics

  • PPE Shortages: Difficulty securing an adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for dental staff.
  • Compliance and Training: Ensuring consistent adherence to infection control protocols, including proper PPE usage and sterilisation techniques, among all staff members.
  • Patient Anxiety: Addressing increased patient anxiety during the pandemic, making it challenging to encourage regular dental check-ups and treatments.
  • Financial Strain: Managing added financial burdens due to enhanced infection control measures like increased PPE usage and ventilation upgrades.
  • Regulatory Changes: Keeping up with evolving guidelines and regulations from health authorities, such as the Australian Dental Association (ADA) or local health departments.
  • Supply Chain Disruptions: Coping with supply chain disruptions, affecting critical dental supplies’ availability, including sterilisation equipment and disinfectants.
  • Emerging Variants: Concerns regarding the potential impact of new COVID-19 variants on existing infection control measures, necessitating ongoing vigilance and adaptability.

Web99 Help:

Web99’s Role in Achieving Compliance with Australian Standards and Ensuring Safety:

  1. Guidelines Access: Web99 provides access to updated infection control guidelines from authoritative sources like the ADA.
  2. Expert Advice: Dental professionals can seek expert guidance and clarity on compliance requirements through Web99.
  3. Training Resources: Web99 may offer training modules and educational materials for staff on infection control.
  4. Templates and Checklists: Customizable templates and checklists on Web99 streamline compliance efforts.
  5. Timely Updates: Dental clinics receive real-time updates and alerts about changes in guidelines.
  6. Community Collaboration: Web99 fosters networking within the dental community for sharing best practices.
  7. Supplier Information: It offers info on approved suppliers for essential infection control supplies.
  8. Self-Assessment Tools: Dental clinics can use auditing and assessment tools to evaluate and improve compliance status.

Conclusion: The Path Forward

Infection control in dental clinics is not a choice; it’s an ethical obligation. Compliance with Australian Standards and incorporating COVID-19 protocols have paved the way for a safer dental care environment. Sterilisation techniques and ongoing hygiene measures are the cornerstones of this commitment to patient health.

As we move forward, dental clinics must stay informed about the latest guidelines and regulations, prioritise ongoing staff training, and continue to reassure patients about the safety of their practices. With the help of Web99, dental clinics can ensure that infection control remains a top priority, safeguarding dental professionals’ and patients’ health and well-being.

“Ready to stay up-to-date and tackle infection control challenges in your dental clinic? Visit Web99 now for the latest guidelines, resources, and expert support to ensure the safety of your patients and staff.”

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About Author

Prem Rathod

Prem Rathod

Director & co-founder

Prem Rathod is a highly skilled professional and co-founder of Web99, a digital marketing and web development agency based in Australia. With expertise in SEO, he is committed to providing innovative solutions to help businesses improve their online presence and visibility. With over a decade of experience in the industry, Prem is passionate about leveraging technology to automate processes and drive innovation in the healthcare sector. His proficiency in SEO, automation, and health tech has helped Web99 stay at the forefront of the industry. His skills in web development, UI/UX design, and project management have also been instrumental in the growth and success of the company.

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