With all of the daily obligations and routines that comprise our lives, it can be easy to lose sight of the details. We tend to focus on the big picture: issues that concern our children, our finances, and our homes. Or, in the case of the dental practice, the big picture includes scheduling patients, optimizing the workflow and technology, and making sure the team vibe is positive.
With all of those concerns, it can be hard to differentiate the nuances of the consumables that dental professionals use in their offices, but it is a critical concern that deserves the attention of the practice in order to ensure the well-being of staff and patients.
Every industry has products designed specifically to compliment the unique job, workflow and processes that are part of day-to-day life for the people who work in that industry.
For instance, mechanics use special soaps and paper towels designed to get oil off their hands easily. Of course, comparing the needs of mechanics to those of dental professionals is like comparing apples to oranges, but the principle of using products specifically designed for a unique environment is the same. You wouldn’t expect a mechanic to rely on the kind of hand soap you keep in your home’s kitchen or bathroom (no matter how great it smells!), so why should a medical professional?
Luckily, there are best practices for comparing and selecting infection prevention products. This means finding products that are optimally compatible with the unique environment that is the dental office. So let’s look at why dental consumables you use every day cannot be everyday in quality — or design.
HAND CARE Healthcare providers must assume they are coming into contact with patients that may be carrying infectious diseases, from hepatitis to HIV. Using dental consumables designed for use in healthcare settings is the only way to effectively protect the clinician and the patients. It’s pretty standard knowledge that practicing hand hygiene throughout the day is key to infection prevention. That includes the use of plain or antimicrobial soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and skin moisturizers. Unfortunately, frequent hand washing soon leads to dry, painful and even cracked skin (and possibly dermatitis), especially in the winter. At that point, the last thing you want to do is keep subjecting your skin to the thing that caused these problems in the first place. But in the dental practice, you don’t have a choice. A highly effective solution is to add moisturizer to the hand hygiene regimen, which can help protect your skin — the body’s natural defense against infections.
“I remind dental teams that even though they wear patient exam gloves, skin that is intact is the best protection against transmission,” says Olivia Wann, RDA, JD, of Modern Practice Solutions. “I always suggest supplementing their hand hygiene program with Hu-Friedy’s Skin Repair Cream, particularly for high-volume offices such as pediatric and orthodontic settings. A solid hand hygiene program complies with CDC's Summary of Infection Prevention Practices in Dental Settings as well as OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.” When selecting hand moisturizers for your office, consider the specific needs of the dental professional: namely, that the product should be medical-grade and compatible with glove use. Hu-Friedy’s Skin Repair Cream contains Olivamine®, a patented blend of ingredients that delivers all of the essential nutrients necessary for optimal skin health. Alcohol-based hand antiseptics for healthcare use should contain 60% to 95% alcohol. But even products in that range are not all created equal. Antiseptics with a high alcohol content such as Hu-Friedy’s Sterillium® Comfort Gel™, which contains 85% alcohol and kills 99.999% of pathogens within 15 seconds, require less product than those with lower alcohol, which require larger dosages and longer contact times.
INSTRUMENT CLEANERS When evaluating instrument cleaners, always look for something designed specifically to remove blood and bioburden from dental instruments. Generic ultrasonic detergents don’t ensure that your instruments will achieve an optimal clean while retaining their quality for as long as possible. On the other hand, Enzymax® Ultrasonic Detergent includes two different enzymes as well as Steelgard™ agents and corrosion inhibitors. Enzymatic instrument cleaners lengthen the life of instruments by protecting them from harmful minerals found in water and eliminating buildup, spotting and corrosion. “Hu-Friedy's Enzymax Spray Gel is a must-have instrument cleaner for busy practices,” says Wann. “I refer clients to this enzymatic product to start lifting blood and other potentially infectious material immediately following patient care, especially if there is a time delay in processing the instruments.” For an equally effective environmentally friendly option, try Enzymax Earth™ Concentrated Ultrasonic Detergent and Presoak, which is biodegradable and phosphate free.
GLOVES It is essential to use heavy-duty utility gloves when handling instruments and cassettes following patient treatment, such as in the dirty section of the sterilization area and when breaking down rooms or working with chemicals. Using patient exam gloves instead of puncture-resistant and chemical-resistant utility gloves increases the risk for chemical exposure and sharps injuries. Be sure to select utility gloves that aren’t bulky — you should still have tactical sensitivity when wearing them. “Hu-Friedy Lilac Utility Gloves are a popular favorite among my clients,” says Wann. “The rigid, puncture-resistant gloves helps practices comply with OSHA's requirements. Unlike regular utility gloves and kitchen gloves, these gloves give clinical personnel the protection they need in handling loose, contaminated instruments.”
CARE AND MAINTENANCE PRODUCTS Caring for instruments that are rusted, stained, discolored, or lacking the lubrication that keeps them working smoothly is time consuming without the right products. Fortunately, Shine reNEW™ Stain and Rust Remover and our Instrument Lubricant Spray tackle these issues while saving precious time. Having rust removers that are designed for use on dental instruments ensures they are working in tip-top condition without requiring extra time spent on the process.
CONCLUSION The big picture certainly deserves the attention we give it, but we cannot let the little details that keep the big picture moving fall by the wayside. Every dental professional depends on specific tools, materials and resources, so it is pivotal to invest in the consumables designed specifically for dentistry and dental instruments, with clear instructions for use from the manufacturer. By doing so, clinicians can rest assured that they are using their products as instructed. Plus, investing in the tools and materials designed for the dental practice ensures they comply with best practices in infection prevention, giving clinicians peace of mind in knowing that the practice is offering the best care to its patients.
FEATURED KEY OPINION LEADER
Read about Olivia Wann, RDA, JD - Key Opinion Leader. Olivia spent her early years in a general dental practice as an office manager and was a registered dental assistant. She attended Tennessee Technology Center's dental assistants course, and also graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor's of Science in Health Care Management from St. Joseph's College and a Doctorate in Jurisprudence from Nashville School of Law.
Olivia founded Modern Practice Solutions in the year 2000, which focuses on compliance needs of dental practices. Olivia and her team provide training, consulting, and policy development in the areas of OSHA, infection control, HIPAA and human resource management. She is a member of the Tennessee Bar Association, the American Health Care Lawyers Association, and OSAP.