DSO leaders weigh in on best dental infection control practices

Dentists and dental service organizations across the U.S. shared with Becker's the most effective safety measures they've implemented in light of the pandemic.

Below, dental professionals discussed well-received and effective infection control measures at their organization.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Andrew Matta, DDS, chief medical officer and founding member of Pittsburgh-based North American Dental Group: The safety measure that we have put in place with the best feedback has been the hold-off or limited use of ultrasonic [tools] companywide. This showed that we are committed to our hygienists' safety.

Jack Dillenberg DDS, MPH, Dean Emeritus Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health, ATSU: The focus for every dentist should be to keep the patients and staff safe. One key way they do that is to keep patients separated when they arrive; they can remain in their cars until they're able to enter the operatory.

This is an opportunity for dentists to show their patients they care about them, and to build a relationship that goes beyond dentistry that includes their wellness in general. Letting patients know you care about them and their overall health promotes a climate of safety.

Dentists across the Chicago-based Aspen Dental network said: To provide patients and care teams a safe dental experience through the COVID-19 pandemic, Aspen Dental's clinical and non-clinical care team members moved quickly to adapt new personal protective equipment standards: Front desk staff greet patients with surgical masks while clinical teams wear respirators, disposable gowns and full face shields. The new safety standards have been supported through education for the professionals, making them comfortable transitioning to the new best-practice protocol.

Reinventing PPE guidelines was a first step in the diligence given to safety standards across every Aspen Dental office, bringing added safety in what is today's normal. Additionally, adjustments to patient workflow and schedules were made to eliminate walk-in appointments, minimize waiting room time and capacity, transition fully to digital check-in/getting rid of paper, and using COVID-specific health questionnaires to screen care teams and patients.

Carolyn Ghazal, DDS, chair of associate platform development and the first dentist supported by Irvine, Calif.-based Pacific Dental Services: To ensure the safety of those around us, we've implemented the following measures to support our team members and patients:

  • Ongoing review of all applicable requirements and guidelines, including those issued by OSHA, ADA, CDC and local dental boards.
  • Implementation of processes to ensure all such requirements and guidelines are followed.
  • Source control:
    • Chairs in the reception area are a minimum of 6 feet apart.
    • Removed magazines, reading materials, toys and other objects that may be touched by others, and which are not easily disinfected.
    • Patients call the office once they are in the parking lot; then the receptionist texts them when we're ready for them to enter the building. This process decreases wait time and allows a "direct to operatory" approach.
    • Masks are required for everyone, including patients when they're not receiving treatment.
    • All patients and team members, as well as any visitors and service providers, are required to go through a COVID-19 screening daily, which includes questions and a temperature check.
    • Enhanced disinfecting and cleaning protocols.
    • We continuously monitor the pace of spread and infection in the local community.
    • Prioritize care based on the urgency of dental conditions.
    • Stagger patient appointments to minimize patient-to-patient contact and observe social distancing.
  • Conducted a detailed risk assessment and implemented a site-specific protection plan. Since my office is a group practice, we've
  • expanded hours and days to include Saturdays and Sundays to safely accommodate our patients.
  • Conduct ongoing inventory of PPE to ensure adequate supply for all team members.
  • Follow proper donning and doffing of PPE at all times.
  • Focus on efficiency in delivering care to decrease the number of visits needed by each patient; this helps reduce exposure and preserves PPE.
  • Practice infection prevention protocols that include a combination of standard precautions, contact precautions and droplet precautions.

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