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Why a clean dental office matters to your patients

Why a clean dental office matters to your patients

Like all healthcare facilities, dental offices must always be kept impeccably clean. Without a focus on cleanliness, dental offices could inadvertently be turning away patients and employees - and could be placing those individuals at risk of health and injury issues, too.

That's simply not acceptable for any business, but certainly not a dental practice. Patients will take notice and head elsewhere for their dental care needs if a practice does not demonstrate a commitment to keeping the space clean and safe. Those patients may talk, too, either directly with others or by sharing negative reviews online - both of which can do very real harm to a business.

So, rather than take a lackadaisical approach, dental practice managers and owners must commit themselves and encourage their teams to do the same. This solution not only earns the appreciation of patients, but also keeps them visiting your practice.

Here is how you can commit to maintaining a cleaner dental practice - and more on why it matters.

Infection control in dental practices

If your dental practice does not pay close attention to office cleanliness, then you could increase the chance people in the facility being exposed to infections from bloodborne pathogens. That's why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides industry standards that pertain to dental practice cleaning activities.

A couple of examples of those required practices that dentists must adhere to include the following:

  • All equipment and working surfaces that have been contacted by blood, saliva or other material that is potentially infectious must be cleaned and decontaminated.
  • Appropriate disinfectants must be used when a procedure has been completed or a potentially infectious material has spilled.

Looking for what is defined as an appropriate disinfectant? The Environmental Protection Agency provides lists. These disinfectants will help protect patients and employees who work at dental practices from infections and disease. For the most part, these cleaners will need to be registered with the EPA as a hospital disinfectant, which are recommended for use when cleaning any surface that has come into contact with a patient.

Safely clean up chemical spills

Chemical spills are another common occurrence in dentist offices. These chemicals, especially when they are hazardous, must be cleaned up quickly and correctly in order to maintain a safe environment within the facility.

Typical hazardous chemicals handled in these practices include the same disinfectants that were just discussed, as well as anesthetic agents and alcohol. On this topic, OSHA provides standards for the handling of these chemicals. Those requirements include ensuring that employees communicate about any spills and procedures and are also trained on how to safely clean up the chemical spills.

That training needs to provide direction on how to read the labels on chemical containers and where they can go within the facility to find safety sheets with more information. In addition, proper employee training will include knowledge of how to protect themselves from coming into contact with the hazardous chemicals they are cleaning up.

For example, employees should be trained on proper ventilation during cleanup and which personal protective equipment they must wear during the process, such as gloves, masks and goggles.

Clean equipment and surface areas per standards

Though we have already covered how to clean surfaces that have come into contact with patients, there are other surfaces that are frequently touched that should also be cleaned.

Be sure to clean light switches, handles and levers that may also be frequently contacted by patients and dental workers. The same chemicals used for cleaning other surfaces that have been in more direct contact with patients and patient material are also recommended in these cases.

Some dental practices may also chose to rely on alternatives to cleaning surfaces after each patient, such as impermeable barriers that protect surfaces. If they are used, then these barriers must be removed, thrown away and replaced after every patient.

Another surface that must always be kept clean is anything considered a housekeeping surface. This would include floors, walls and sinks. Though not always in contact with patients during procedures, there is still the potential that certain materials of concern could come into contact with these surfaces, so they must be carefully cleaned like any other surface on the cleaning checklist.

Keep a regular cleaning schedule to make sure your office reduces the potential of patients and employees coming into contact with infectious material. The clean appearance could help boost patients' impressions of your practice, too.

Use the right cleaning tools

Good, deep cleaning is difficult without the proper tools. Stock the office with the tools and equipment that will be needed to clean up chemicals and to accomplish other housekeeping tasks.

But remember - those same tools can also become contaminated, so they also will need to be cleaned after use and then allowed to dry fully. For some equipment, such as mops, daily laundering may be necessary to make sure they are kept clean. Other equipment, such as disposable towels that include disinfectants, can simply be thrown away after each use.

Just be sure to have someone in the office on top of tracking and ordering new cleaning supplies and tools when needed.

Have a waste management plan

Plenty of the waste generated in dental offices is closely regulated, so rather than just cleaning up, your facility will need a plan for how to handle that waste.

Dental amalgam waste is of particular importance, but so are other forms of waste, including pharmaceutical, sharps and x-ray waste. Each waste type has some form of best practice and often EPA regulations that apply to how they are handled, disposed of or recycles.

The best solution is to partner with a comprehensive solution provider who can help you navigate government regulations that affect the dental industry. DRNA has been providing these solutions to the dental profession for more than 20 years.

Give DRNA a call today to discuss regulatory requirements that may affect your practice and we can help you stay in compliance with regulations, freeing you up to focus on helping patients.