Quick Guide: Infection Control and Prevention

Dental Health Providers (CDA for California) provide the Infection Prevention and Control guidelines in which they draw out the standards and principles for proper, practical, and safe control measures and infection prevention. These standards get updated with new laws, so the learning and improving dental practices by following new guidelines is ongoing. Last year, an outbreak of mycobacterial infection led to the hospitalization of more than 60 children in Southern California, which is why new legislation was prompted to improve infection control safety.

Here is a quick guide to infection control and prevention that summarizes the basic guidelines for dental specialists and dental auxiliaries.

Dental Training

Any RDA applicant who wants to receive a license must complete an Infection Control and Prevention course. It all starts with training, and dental assistants may find it unnecessary saying that “it’s the same thing every year.” However, there is a need for comprehensive training due to the documented transmission of bloodborne pathogens. We all learn every day, and one should perceive Infection Control training as a reminder. The training takes place as a part of the hiring process and is completed annually.

Download the Summary of Infection Prevention & Control Guidelines & Recommendations, which includes additional information and topics relevant to dental infection control and prevention since 2003. It includes infection prevention education and training, infection prevention program regulatory measures, updated safe injection practices, administrative measures for instrument processing, and respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette. The summary also provides a checklist you can use to evaluate compliance.

Automatic Cleaning

We can reduce the potential for infection by using instrument management cassettes to minimize how often dental practitioners handle contaminated instruments. Instead of handling contaminated dental instruments again to place them in the device or ultrasonic washer, put the entire cassette into the automatic cleaning unit (this also minimizes breakage of instrument tips.) Rather than scrubbing by hand, it is preferred to use an automatic cleaning. In case you need to do it by hand, use enzymatic spray gel or prepare a holding solution with an enzymatic cleaner.

Enzymatic Cleaners

To protect against minerals found in water that contribute to corrosion, spotting, and buildup, use dual-enzymatic detergent containing a corrosion inhibitor for your ultrasonic cleaning unit. Whichever instrument washer you’re using, test the cleaner performance, because the cleaning process is possibly ineffective if the unit is not functioning correctly. You can check it by cleaning monitor strips containing a test soil which mimics the presence of tissue and blood. In that case, dental assistants should resort to hand scrubbing. Perform this test at least once a day.

Utility Gloves and Personal Protective Equipment

In Infection Control Training, dental employees are trained for proper use and selection of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). In practice, wearing utility gloves is a common challenge for dental practitioners. It often happens that the hygienist or dental assistant transfer contaminated instruments to the cleaning unit wearing the same gloves they used during a patient exam, which is not in compliance. For instrument cleaning and decontamination, dental professionals should use chemical and puncture-resistant heavy-duty utility gloves.

After patient treatment, change into utility gloves and proceed to: isolate and remove the instruments; transport them to the cleaning area in a solid, leak-proof container. Then remove and dispose of barriers and waste; decontaminate the gloves by washing them and clean the instruments while wearing the utility gloves. Wash your hands and put on patient exam gloves.

Completing a Board-approved course in infection control is mandatory for all unlicensed RDAs seeking to obtain a license, as well as for employed RDAs who need to renew it every year. Dental Specialties Institute, Inc provides an 8-hour Infection Control course – 4 of hours didactic online or home study and 4 hours of clinical lab instruction. Approved by the Dental Board of California, we have been providing education and training of the highest quality for practicing DAs and students since 2000.