Are you ready for the onslaught of sniffles, contagious coughs, cancelled appointments, and sick staff members? While you can’t control flu-infected patients walking through your door, there are some simple things you can do behind the scenes to protect yourself and your team. By following the recommended infection control guidelines in the 6 tips below, you can reduce the spread of infectious diseases and maintain a happy and healthy environment for patients and staff alike.
1. Wear Maximum Filtration Masks
Face masks are a dental professional’s first line of defense against airborne pathogens. Inhaling unhealthy airborne droplets can lead to, yep, you guessed it, the flu! You may not be able to protect yourself from all microorganisms, but you can certainly reduce your exposure by choosing a mask with a higher filtration level this time of year. Looking for maximum protection? Pick a mask with a secure fit and high ASTM level. And don’t forget to change masks between patients! Check out some options below to find your perfect match.
2. Pick the Right Eyewear
Most dental professionals wear some sort of protective eyewear, whether it’s prescription eyeglasses, safety glasses, or even loupes. But not all of these products protect your eyes from sprays, splatters, aerosols, and foreign particles. Standard eyewear typically protects you from the front, however it doesn’t necessarily protect you from debris on the side. During flu season, try seeking out protective eyewear that provides full face protection. You can even make it fun for your patients to participate by helping them pick out a colorful, patterned pair to wear as well. Double the protection, double the fun! #ItsScientificallyProvenWeSwear
3. Use Additional Protective Barriers
Are you doing everything possible to ensure that your clinical equipment and surfaces are clean and sterile? Make it a habit to properly cover, clean, and disinfect areas used during an examination. To further limit contamination, environmental surface barriers should be utilized and swapped out in between each patient’s cleanings. When selecting a barrier, the primary feature to look for is impermeability. Plus, commercial surface covers are available in a variety of shapes and sizes – including anything from full chair sleeves down to disposable covers for your computer keyboards and even your pens! Bonus tip: be sure to wear special utility gloves when working with instruments in the sterilization center.
4. Follow Your Standard Daily Sterilization Routines Closely
You know the drill…but now’s the time to be extra diligent with your sterilization duties. Start by creating a list to identify areas that will need attention. This may include, but is not limited to: dental unit attachments, light handles, radiograph equipment, drawer handles, reusable containers of dental products, computers, and bracket tables. These surfaces must be appropriately cleaned and disinfected after each patient visit. Also, did you know that you should use the same brand of cleaning supplies on one surface, because the chemical ingredients are made to work together? Don’t have a favorite brand? It might be time to find one! And don’t forget to put on a new pair of gloves between patients. Will you go through a lot of gloves during flu season? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes!
5. Consider Appointing (or Hiring) an Infection Control Coordinator
Are you one hundred percent confident that your practice’s protocols meet current infection control standards? If you hesitated even slightly, then you might want to consider hiring an Infection Control Coordinator, a position that is now recommended by OSAP. This individual can provide training to your staff and review your infection control policies, as well as maintain related permits and licenses. Accountability helps ensure compliance with safety regulations, and that’s a GOOD thing as the flu season rolls around. If hiring an Infection Control Coordinator doesn’t fit in with your budget, consider purchasing an Infection Control Workbook that provides information and training for dealing with infection control related issues in the dental office.
6. Educate Your Patients and Staff
You’ve taken many measures to keep your office and equipment clean and hazard-free. One final proactive step is to encourage your staff and patients to stay home if they’re sick or infected with the flu. To help your team stay healthy outside the dental office, advise them to wash their hands often, use mouthwash regularly, and replace their toothbrush often (you’ve probably got a few lying around, right?), along with any additional suggestions you wish to pass along. Educating your patients on these healthy habits is not only beneficial for physical health, it’s good for mental health as well! Showing that you truly care is sure to lead to a spike in morale.
When it comes to protecting your patients, staff, and practice during flu season, taking the proper infection control precautions is essential. Along with these six tips, Patterson offers an array of supplies to help you get started. You can browse these products as well as pick up some additional pointers in our infection control headquarters, HERE!