By Dr. Linda D. Lee, MBA
Patient safety is essential to quality oral health care. It is imperative that dentists reduce the risks of injury or infection to patients during their care; however, safety in the dental industry has often been pushed aside due to perceived lower risk than other health fields.(1) In the past, it was believed that if a practitioner was conscientious and capable, there would be no failure in patient safety. Around the 1990s there was a shift in belief, and a movement began to improve systems rather than assign all blame to human error.(2) This shift in thinking led to improved transparency and protocol in practices.
Those who work in the dental industry could also be at an increased risk for workplace hazards. Dentists and their employees should take precaution to avoid exposure to infectious agents, waste anesthetic gas, allergens, damaging noise and radiation, and any other hazards. Most importantly, a culture of workplace safety must be established from the top down. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration provides valuable resources at no charge at osha.gov for keeping your dental office safe.
Infection control is a key factor in patient safety. Some recommendations for preventing and controlling infectious diseases include developing an infection prevention program, being sure to provide all the training and necessary supplies for staff to be compliant, and following proper hand and respiratory hygiene protocol.(3) It is also advisable for practices to periodically review their policies and procedures and be sure to be up to date with the latest recommendations. Some behaviors to avoid would include reusing syringes on more than one patient, accessing a medication container and using for a later patient, and reusing lancets.(3)
Advances in safety technology
UV-C technology is a time-tested way to eradicate pathogens. Now, the integration of a shielded UV-C chamber into a light fixture has made it practical for dental offices to maximize coverage and eliminate human error. The system, developed by VidaShield, operates unobtrusively and continuously. For more information on VidaShield and how to improve the environment for your patients, contact us at [email protected].
Dr. Linda D. Lee, MBA, has spent over 30 years in health care having previously worked for CH2M Hill, WM Healthcare Solutions, Inc., the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Stericycle, Inc. She is a speaker and author of numerous peer-reviewed journals/publications and three books published by the American Hospital Association. She has been a recent speaker/presenter at SHEA, AIHce, IPAC-Canada, and the C Diff Foundation. She graduated with a bachelor’s in environmental health science from Indiana State University. She earned a master’s in operations management from the University of Arkansas College of Engineering. She completed a doctorate of public health in occupational and environmental health from the University of Texas Health Science Center. She has an MBA with an emphasis in health-care management. Dr. Lee is a certified indoor air quality manager and currently serves as chief science officer for VidaShield.