Some people avoid dental visits because they are anxious about the sounds of dental drills or the possibility of pain. However, dental phobia due to germs is a very real concern too. Everyone needs at least yearly or bi-yearly check-ups at a place like Dental Design SD to maintain their dental health, so if your phobia of germs is holding you back, here are some things to keep in mind.
Rooms are Cleaned, and Surface Barriers are Applied
Before you are even allowed to go to the room for treatment, dental assistants must clean and disinfect the room from the previous patient. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides dentistry offices with a list of chemical sterilants that can kill tuberculocidal-level pathogens—the same as hospital disinfectants. Besides cleaning the room, assistants will cover drawers, computers, chairs, etc. with protective surface barriers, like plastic chair covers. These barriers are resistant to saliva, blood, and other liquids.
The Dental Staff Has Their Own "Order of Operations" For Personal Protective Gear
When the dental staff is ready to treat you, they will obviously wash their hands, put on face masks, and protective eyewear. This personal protective gear not only protects the staff. It protects you! The very last step in this order of operations is when the dentist puts on examination gloves. It's very important for gloves to be put on last, as this shows the patient that the gloves haven't been used during cleaning or on another patient. Once a dental professional is gloved, you will notice that they will not touch chairs, tables, or other surface areas with contaminants. If they do, they will discard the gloves and get new ones before examining you.
Instruments are Discarded or Sterilized
Some instruments—like saliva ejectors—are made of plastic that can be thrown in the garbage. These disposable instruments are never used on another patient. If instruments aren't disposable, you can rest assured that they will be sterilized to kill dangerous germs, including HIV-level pathogens. Every dental office has a dental processing center, which also has its own order of operations:
- Instruments are transported to the sterilizing processing area
- Instruments are cleaned in an ultrasonic cleaner. These ultrasonic cleaners produce sound waves that create bubbles within a liquid cleaner. When these bubbles burst, germs and debris on the instruments is shaken off.
- The instruments are dried and loaded into a sterilizer, like an autoclave. Sterilizers can achieve hot temperatures, like 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Instruments are removed from the sterilizer and placed in packages that protect them until they are ready for transport and use.
Your dentist will also do biologic monitoring with their sterilizing equipment. Biologic monitoring, or spore testing, is an approved way by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to confirm that the equipment is completely sterilizing instruments.
As you can see, before you are even seated at the dentist's office, there are many steps that go into cleaning and disinfecting the office. Offices must follow not only CDC regulations but Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, like the Bloodborne Pathogens (BBP) Standard. This means that your dental staff will know how to protect you from contaminant exposure.