Safety in dental offices

Because many people visit dental offices, dentists and dental staff apply stringent infection control measures for everyone’s safety.

Dentists and their teams apply “universal” or standard precautions, which are procedures to be applied by everyone involved, for all patients. They reduce the risk of contagion, contamination and the spread of infection. Note that the risk of infection in a dental office is very low, and cases of transmission are very rare.

The following universal precautions are used to prevent the transmission of infection in a dental office. They protect not only patients, but also dentists and their teams.

Physical barriers

Gloves serve as a barrier between the saliva, blood and mucosa of a patient and the dentist's, hygienist’s and assistant’s hands. They must be discarded between patients and each time that a dentist or other dental team member leaves the room.

A mask protects the dentist, hygienist or assistant against aerosols produced while working in the mouth. Aerosols are fine water droplets that are suspended in the air and may contain microbes. It also protects the patient against an infection that can be transmitted through the airways, such as the flu.

Glasses are used to protect the dentist's, hygienist’s or assistant’s eyes from being scratched by a projectile or injured or contaminated by an infectious agent splashing in the eye. The glasses can also be worn by the patient during some dental treatments.

A uniform protects the clothes of dental team members and the spread of germs outside of the working environment.

Infection control procedures

Hands must be washed with soap before and after wearing gloves, between each patient and after changing rooms.

Sterilization destroys all micro-organisms on instruments used in the mouth. Instruments are sterilized before each use. Feel free to ask questions about sterilization. Your dentist can show how he or she ensures that all instruments are properly sterilized (safety seal on disposable needles, colour-change indicators on instrument packages that change colour after the sterilization process, external laboratory tests to monitor effectiveness of sterilization, etc.)

Working surfaces must be disinfected between each patient in order to destroy the vast majority of pathogenic micro-organisms. This includes the chair, instrument tray, counter, etc.

Disposable material is necessary because certain instruments or materials cannot be sterilized, washed or re-used (e.g. gloves, masks, needles, compresses, cotton rolls, etc.).