A lot has changed with COVID19 – and at the center of the uncertainties and anxieties around us is an awareness of infection control. One of the dental hygienists I work with at Virtudent put it well – “hygienists always thought about infection control, but the difference is that now everyone is thinking like a hygienist!” 

Dentistry always meets the challenges of seeing the public in our setting by following standard precautions, or a set of guidelines that regulate keeping track of what is “dirty” and what is “clean,” what that means and how best to disinfect and dispose of what is needed to protect staff and patients. Standard precautions assume that all patients have the potential to carry an infectious disease – even if we ask and screen for patient medical histories, patients can be asymptomatic or unaware of their own history. All PPE (personal protective equipment) worn and supplies are chosen carefully and managed with best practices in mind. 

As we all transition back into a life post-COVID19 closures, there will also be changes to the way we do things and what we need to do to meet new public health considerations. The need to stay healthy and on track with oral health to in turn keep our immune system healthy is so important! Although official recommendations are still to come, here are some ideas: 

  1. Since COVID19, there has been an increase in awareness about the use of masks. Any covering of face and nose is a good idea to protect and infectious air particles from spreading – and in a setting like dentistry, using a mask that is fitted to the face and helps block the most air particles is important. Surgical masks have levels of how much they help block, N95s respirators filter 95% of air particles and are more fitted.
  2. Disinfecting wipes are used to wipe down surfaces in the area used for dental appointments, and hand sanitizers are important for use both before and after glove use. Guidelines recommend checking the ingredients of wipes sufficient to kill viruses such as the recent coronavirus, and alcohol-based sanitizers of 60% or greater alcohol content. At Virtudent we use a brand of wipes with ammonium chlorides sufficient to kill coronaviruses such as COVID19, and a 61% hand sanitizer for all patient care. 
  3. Additional screenings during medical history concerning any known or suspected exposure to COVID19 is important. Anyone who suspects they might not be feeling well is advised to reach out to a medical provider and consider rescheduling elective dental appointments. 

While we all transition back to life after COVID19, keeping an awareness of changing recommendations and staying on top of the new challenges in infection control are key and something here at Virtudent we are monitoring closely. The CDC, OSHA, and ADA are all great resources with advice on best practices. Some things may evolve and look differently in time, but at the center is always keeping patients safe and healthy.

Susan Walker

Author Susan Walker

As a hygienist for Virtudent, Susan works to bring preventative dental care to patients in their workplace. After graduating from both Boston University and Forsyth College at Mass College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Susan worked in private practice for about five years and saw firsthand many issues for patients having access to quality care. When Susan is not helping spread greater grins at Virtudent, she volunteers with Helping Hands, Women's Lunchplace of Boston, and also serves on the legislative action committee at the MSPCA.

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