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Reducing Infections in the Clinical Setting

Simple Strategies for Reducing Infections While Using Dental Handpieces

Each day, many working within the clinical setting in the dental industry experience occupational exposure to a multitude of potentially infectious agents. These include – but, are not at all limited to – supplies that have been contaminated, infectious materials, items contained on surfaces, debris within the air, and contaminants that have found their way into the water. In addition to clinical dental professionals experiencing exposure, trainees, staff, and patients have an increased chance for exposure. In this brief guide, we will expound on several simple strategies for reducing infections in the clinical setting while using dental instruments, such as dental handpieces.

The Pathogenic Microorganisms

While the pathogenic microorganisms vary immensely, dental professionals, staff, and patients may be subjected to many potentially serious ones. Examples include the herpes simplex virus types, cytomegalovirus, streptococci, staphylococci, and HIV. The pathogenic microorganisms may come in contact with people through direct blood contact, direct contact with oral fluids, soft tissue contact, indirect contact with surfaces and dental instruments, coming in contact with droplets from the eyes, mouth, and/or nose, or direct inhalation of those pathogens that have the ability to remain suspended within the air. In some instances, contact may stem from exposure to bodily fluids from contagious microorganisms through coughing, talking, and/or sneezing.

Conditions That Must Exist for Infection

As a dental professional, it is imperative to know and understand that a multitude of conditions must exist in order for an infection to take place within the clinical setting. These conditions are as follows:

  1. A source must be available that allows the pathogen the ability to survive. Prime examples of these sources include blood and saliva. Not only do these sources permit the survival of pathogenic microorganisms, but, they allow those pathogens to rapidly multiply.
  2. Next, a specific mode must exist that allows for the successful transmission of the pathogen to move from the source onto the host that is to be infected.
  3. Then, there must be a mode where the pathogen may invade the host.
  4. Finally, the host that the pathogen is seeking to invade will have to be susceptible to the invasion.

Reducing Chance of Exposure

In the past, many guidelines have been established that aid in eliminating bloodborne pathogenic microorganisms. The following outlines a combination of these guidelines and additional strategies:

  1. First, you should ensure that all sharp instruments are handled with the greatest of care.
  2. Next, all of your dental instruments – including your dental handpieces, suction lines, and similar devices – should be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized after each use.
  3. Dental handpieces should be maintained on a regular basis. Improper functioning of a dental handpiece could result in injury and/or illness to both you and your patients.
  4. Consistent washing of the hands is advised – especially when performing procedures.
  5. Protective barriers should be used at all times. Examples of these barriers include masks, eye protection, gloves, and gowns to protect the clothing and body.
If you require assistance in the maintenance, cleaning, and/or sterilization of your dental handpieces, Hughes Dental is here to assist you. Simply view our Services for more information or call us at:


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