Keeping Dental Offices Safe

Dental Assistants are respected members of a dental office team. They share responsibility for ensuring patient and coworker safety. That’s always true, but especially now during a pandemic. As offices begin to reopen, dentists and their patients will rely on dental assistants to adhere to new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control to prevent infection with COVID-19.

On a webpage labeled ​Guidance for Dental Settings​, the CDC offers continuously updated advice for oral health professionals. Epidemiologists recognize that a dental office is a unique work environment that requires specific steps to prevent the spread of infection. They have crafted their recommendations accordingly.

As of mid-May, the epidemiologists at the CDC had found no clusters of infection related to the dental setting. That’s another way of saying they haven’t found many cases that could be traced to a dental office. That’s good news. Following infection prevention protocols will be a crucial part of keeping it that way.

Infection prevention, according to the CDC guidelines, begins before the patient even arrives. It starts with a telephone health screen from the office. If a patient reports any COVID-related symptoms — fever, cough, shortness of breath, for example — the appointment should be postponed until the patient recovers.

The designated caller, which may be a Dental Assistant, should remind healthy patients to wear a mask when coming to the office, and to limit the number of persons they bring with them, in order to prevent crowded waiting rooms which could needlessly put people at risk of infection.

When the patient arrives, the office may opt to scan for temperatures over 100.4, a low-grade fever that is one of the virus’ first detectable symptoms. During the visit, the assistant will adhere to safety protocols under the supervision of the hygienist or dentist. When the visit is over, the CDC recommends asking the patient to inform the office if they come down with COVID-19 within two weeks of the office visit.

Many of us won’t begin our dental assisting careers in time to make use of all of these tips. But whether or not we need them a year from now, it’s a good reminder of how important it is to keep abreast of the latest developments.

That habit of keeping informed has been serving dental health professionals very well for generations. It will serve you well, too, if you choose a career in dental assisting.

It all starts with an education. Are you interested in building the foundation of knowledge that launches a rewarding lifelong journey of learning? ​Click here​ for more information on the Dental Assisting program offered at Northwestern College!