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13th September 2015

Infection control and safety in the dental practice

Infection control and safety in the 
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Every person at some stage in their lives will have entered a dentist practice. Most people will see the dentist on a regular basis to ensure a planned preventative dental inspection of their teeth is in place to identify at an early stage any dental problems. Behind the scenes, the dental team are responsible for ensuring a safe environment covering health and safety legislation and infection control best practice.

Health and safety in a dental practice

A dental practice is a working environment and health and safety legislation relevant to this workplace is to be managed and implemented.  The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 requires the following general duty of employers for their employees to be carried out:

Section 2

  • It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.

The dental practice will also need to ensure that they have identified the significant hazards in the workplace and recorded risk assessments.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999: Regulation 3 states that every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of:

  • the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work; and
  • the risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking

Infection control policy

Infection control is an equally important aspect of this working environment. As a starting point, all dental practices should have an infection control policy in place which must be managed, implemented and reviewed on a regular basis. Infection control needs to include all aspects of the running of a dental practice.

Monitoring of the dental practice

It is good practice to ensure working methods are reviewed through compliance review audits and regular inspections to identify any current gaps. The compliance audit will cover an assessment of the improvements the dental practice needs to make. An action plan which is based on the findings will help the dental practice focus on the priorities within a specified timeframe. The dental practice could nominate a competent person to undertake a compliance review and ensure there is an implementation plan developed and it remains ‘live’ as actions are closed.

Personal protective equipment

The use of protective clothing such as masks, aprons, gloves and uniform are paramount to the protection of both staff and the person being treated. Face and eye protection will also be required during specific treatments. Personal hygiene such as hand-washing is also important as the person works in close proximity to the person receiving the treatment.

Decontamination of instruments

Decontamination is the process by which reusable items are made safe to use again and is required to minimise the risk of cross-infection between dental staff and those being treated. It is a process of different stages that involves cleaning, disinfection, inspection and sterilization. The dental practice should ensure safe contamination practices and procedures are implemented.

Maintenance of equipment

A planned preventative maintenance regime should be managed and implemented in the dental practice. All decontamination equipment should be subjected to maintenance and servicing as recommended by the manufacturer. Details of inspection and maintenance are found in the operating manual that is supplied with the equipment. Before using any equipment staff should visually check all dental instruments prior to use for any obvious deterioration. This includes also any equipment that was delivered and sealed as a product could potentially deteriorate with time if left in storage. If there is any doubt about the integrity of an instrument then it must not be used. All records of maintenance should be retained within the business.

Documented records

All dental equipment and instruments should have a record of the date of decontamination and also an expiry date. The user of the instrument must check this date before using it.

QCS Heath & Safety policies

QCS have guidance and policies to support your service in meeting the requirements of health and safety.

Sally Beck RGN, BSc (Hons), MSc, CMIOSH – QCS Expert Health and Safety Contributor

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