September is Dental Infection Control Awareness Month (DICAM)

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Oral health care is an essential service and maintaining good oral health is critical to overall health. During this period of pandemic, however, patients may be reluctant to visit their dentist.  For over 40 years, CDC’s Division of Oral Health has been providing guidelines and recommendations to reduce transmission of infections in dental healthcare settings.

There are many ways that dental health care personnel work to keep their patients, their community, and themselves safe during a dental visit. September is Dental Infection Control Awareness Monthexternal icon (DICAM)—a time to recognize and raise awareness of these critical guidelines that dental health care personnel follow every day.

The theme of this year’s awareness is “Break the Chain!” What are you doing to educate your patients about infection prevention and control in your practice?

Your patients may be more curious than ever to hear about what you do to keep them safe during their visits. Don’t wait for them to ask; they may be too shy. Instead, here are some ways you can start the conversation, along with resources to help:

CDC’s Coronavirus Resources

CDC’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) website provides extensive information and resources for many audiences including healthcare personnel, communities, health departments and the public. Dental health care personnel should follow CDC’s Guidance for Dental Settings which includes recommendations like screening everyone entering the dental healthcare facility for fever and symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or exposure to others with SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Hand Hygiene

Practicing hand hygiene is a simple yet effective way to prevent infections. Cleaning your hands can prevent the spread of germs, including those that are resistant to antibiotics and are becoming difficult, if not impossible, to treat. Educate your patients about the importance of handwashing, and how you do this before, in-between, and after seeing patients. You can also teach your patients the importance of keeping their own hands clean, especially as we move into flu season. This may help patients feel more comfortable and relaxed. Check out pdf icon[PDF – 100 KB]external icon these questions and answers to talk with your patients.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Personal protective equipment, or PPE, should be used whenever there is an expectation of possible exposure to infectious material. CDC’s Guidance for Dental Settings includes recommendations for implementing universal use of PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic. Educate your patients about what PPE you use in dental settings; and why you wear your masks, gloves, gowns, and goggles.

Dental Unit Waterlines

Dental unit waterlines can introduce risk of illness to staff and patients if water is not appropriately treated. Explain to your patients how you maintain the quality of your dental water. Here pdf icon[PDF – 94 KB]external icon are some talking points to help get the conversation started.

Instrument Sterilization

Instrument processing requires multiple steps by trained staff using specialized equipment to ensure proper cleaning, disinfection, and sterilization, and storage has occurred. Talk with your patients about the safety measures you take regarding your dental equipment before and after each visit. Here’s how pdf icon[PDF – 94 KB]external icon you can start these conversations.

Be an Infection Control Champion even after DICAM is over by continuing to have these important conversations all year round with your patients!