What is infection control?
The purpose of infection control in dental practice is to prevent the transmission of disease-producing agents such as bacteria, viruses and fungi from one patient to another, from dental practitioner and dental staff to patients, and from patients to dental practitioner or other dental staff. In addition, it is necessary that endogenous spread of infection is also prevented by limiting the spread of infectious agents.
Successful infection control involves:
understanding the basic principles of infection control;
creating systems that allow infection control procedures to be implemented effectively and make compliance with them easy (this includes having clear procedural documentation, and comprehensive training of dental staff together with a process of regular monitoring of the application of these systems and procedures);
keeping up-to-date regarding specific infectious diseases, particularly newly-evolving infection challenges such as avian (H5N1 or H7N9) influenza, emerging human influenza viruses, and multiple resistant organisms, and how to take precautions against them; and
identifying settings that need modified procedures (e.g. nursing homes).
Standard precautions are the basic processes of infection control to minimise the risk of transmission of infection and include:
undertaking regular hand hygiene before gloving and after glove removal;
using personal protective barriers such as gloves, masks, eye protection and gowns;
wearing appropriate protective equipment during clinical procedures and when cleaning and reprocessing instruments;
correctly handling contaminated waste;
appropriately handling sharps;
appropriately reprocessing reusable instruments;
effectively undertaking environmental cleaning;
respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette;
using aseptic non-touch techniques where indicated;
appropriately handling used linen and clinical gowns; and
using, where appropriate, environmental barriers such as plastic coverings on surfaces and items that may become contaminated and are difficult to clean.