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The Importance of PPE for Dental Hygienists

Mar 21, 2022 11:00:00 AM posted in Infection Prevention

The ongoing role that Dental Hygienists play in the dentistry industry presents an opportunity to highlight the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concerning infection prevention in general, and personal protective equipment (PPE) for dental healthcare providers. 

The CDC’s investigations of reports on transmission between dental healthcare providers (DHCPs) and patients from 2003 to 2015 led to updates to the original Guidelines for Infection Control in Dental Health-Care Settings—2003. The updated 2016 summary report brings together recommendations published after 2003 from the CDC and other government agencies, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Here are some of the recommendations in theSummary of Infection Prevention Practices in Dental Settings: Basic Expectations for Safe Care.


Policies and procedures for an infection prevention program

Among the topics addressed in the 2016 summary are recommendations for developing a comprehensive infection prevention program that includes: 

-Regular, documented assessments of personnel compliance with infection prevention procedures
-An annual review and comparison of infection prevention policies and procedures against evidence-based guidelines and state and federal regulations, to update as needed
-Ensuring policies and procedures are in place to maintain adequate supplies of PPE, safety injection devices, and hand soap and other disinfection/sanitation supplies 

One of the most important recommendations—once policies and procedures are established—is to give at least one employee the responsibility of maintaining the infection prevention program. This is the team member who will support compliance of infection prevention procedures through observation and assessments, make recommendations when policies and procedures need to be updated, and be ultimately responsible for ensuring adequate levels of supplies. Without a coordinator, it would be difficult to maintain accurate training records and other proof of compliance with state and federal workplace safety regulations.  


Infection prevention education and training

Because of the DHCP’s direct contact with patients’ saliva, blood, and mucous membranes, gloves are among the most essential PPE for preventing infection transmission in dental care settings. After the rise of treatment-resistant diseases spread by contact with bodily fluids—such as HIV and hepatitis B—the increased dangers from transmission between DHCPs and patients made the barrier protection of gloves even more critical. 

All DHCPs, even experienced dental hygienists, can benefit from occasional reminders about standard precautions and infection prevention measures when using gloves:

-Careful hand hygiene before and after wearing gloves
-The proper method of putting on and taking off disposable gloves 
-Minimizing the touching and contamination of work surfaces 
-Removing gloves when leaving a patient work area 
-Replacing gloves with new ones when attention turns away from the patient to other tasks or unsterilized surfaces—such as using a keyboard 

Some reminders about proper glove use may need more frequent follow-up and monitoring. Employees often forget that the use of hand lotions before putting on disposable gloves may lessen the protection of the gloves—some lotions contain chemicals that weaken the gloves. As well, team members may need to be reminded that long or jagged fingernails and jewelry (rings, bracelets or watches) can stretch, puncture and tear gloves. 


Adequate supplies of the right PPE

The CDC summary also reminds us that an infection prevention program cannot be effective without an adequate supply of the correct type of PPE. Both infection prevention procedures and efficient workflow rely on gloves being readily accessible at each workstation. 

 As in all healthcare settings, DHCPs change gloves between patients. But dental hygienists, in particular, often use two, three or more pairs of gloves during their interactions with each patient. In addition, they are at high risk of hand fatigue and repetitive motion disease. Having a ready supply of correctly sized gloves for each member of the staff—with a good fit for flexible, unrestricted hand movement—is one way to decrease the risk of hand discomfort and damage.  

Is the right type of glove found in each work area for the patient care and other tasks to be performed there—general dental procedures, dental surgery, instrument sterilization, surface disinfection, general cleaning, etc? 

Disposable gloves are composed primarily of one of the following materials: vinyl, latex or nitrile. It’s likely you’ll need all three types of gloves to suit various tasks around the office. You can read more information about the materials used to make gloves in our blog article about the differences between the types of gloves. And in another blog, we’ve covered the topic of choosing the right gloves for your dental office


Together we can Outsmart Infection®

Your infection prevention program requires a reliable partner who can supply all the disposable gloves your dental practice needs. Ventyv® carries a large inventory of high-quality, single-use gloves suited for various tasks, from general purpose cleaning to clinical use. And your patients will feel safer seeing that your infection prevention procedures include the proper use of gloves.

Subscribe to our blog to read more about ways to keep both healthcare workers and patients safe from infection. 

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