If you or a loved one is visiting a dental clinic for care, there are some important things you need to know to prevent infections.
Why is infection prevention important for patients in dental settings?
- Patients can be exposed to infectious diseases while receiving dental care, through contact with blood, oral and respiratory secretions, or contaminated equipment.
- Multidrug resistant organisms such as MRSA may be spread from patient to patient.
- Bloodborne viruses such as hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) have been transmitted in dental care settings and are of concern.
- Proper infection control procedures can prevent the spread of infection to patients during dental care.
What patients can do:
- If you feel ill, reschedule your appointment with the dentist until you are well.
- Wash hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer often.
What patients can observe/ask:
- Make sure that your healthcare providers are cleaning their hands before and after touching you, even if they will be wearing gloves. It’s okay to ask them to clean their hands if you have not seen them do so.
- Any personal protective equipment such as gloves, gown, masks, or face shields worn by your dental healthcare provider should be removed before they leave the treatment area.
- Ask if the needle and syringe have been newly opened for you. Syringes and needles should only be used one time and on one patient.
- Before you receive any medication, ask “Is this a single-dose or single-use medication? Have you used this vial of medication on another person?”
- Discuss with your dentist other health conditions that you may have, as they may impact your treatment.
- If you will receive intravenous fluids, request that they do not use the bag for other patients or set up the intravenous tubing until they are ready to administer fluid to you.
- Make sure that you stay up-to-date on your vaccines. Get a flu shot every year.
- If your dental healthcare provider has given you a prescription for antibiotics, be sure to ask the following questions:
- “Do I really need an antibiotic?”
- “Can I get better without this antibiotic?”
- “What side effects or drug interactions can I expect?”
- “What side effects should I report to you?”
- Make sure that you follow the instructions for taking any antibiotics and finish the entire prescription as instructed.
- Do not save or share antibiotics.
What family members or other visitors can do:
- Ill family members should stay at home.
- If a family member has a respiratory infection and must accompany the patient, they should wear a mask and sit well away from others in the waiting room.
- Make sure to cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing and promptly clean hands.
- Help your loved one to understand and follow all dental care instructions medications exactly as ordered.
Learn more and share:
- Infection prevention info for dental patients—The Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP)
- Infection control in dental settings—The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Infection control resources—American Dental Association
- What patients need to know about safe injection practices—The One and Only Campaign
- Injection safety: What you don’t know can hurt you—APIC consumer alert
- Moving the needle to safe dentistry—CDC Safe Healthcare blog