Ensuring a Healthy Dental Office During Flu Season

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girl in winter hat with tissue blowing nose in flu season

Ready or not, the 2018-2019 flu season is here. Even if the flu hasn’t yet peaked in your community, now is the time to tighten up infection prevention protocols in your practice.

While the timing, severity, and length of each flu season varies, last year’s was one of the worst in recent memory. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there were over 80,000 deaths related to flu and its complications in the U.S. alone. That made the 2017-2018 flu season the deadliest in 42 years. During the upcoming flu season, dental offices can help keep patients, staff, and visitors healthy. Take action today to help prevent the spread of flu, beginning with a holistic approach to infection prevention.

Taking a Holistic Approach to Infection Prevention

Oftentimes when we talk about infection prevention and control in dental settings, we’re talking about the operatory and specific protocols for instrument and equipment sterilization. The prevention of bloodborne-pathogens. During flu season, it’s important to take a more holistic view.

Flu viruses are highly contagious and typically spread from person to person very quickly. The air gets contaminated by droplets expelled when people with the flu cough and sneeze. That air contaminates surfaces, and when someone touches an object and then touches their mouth, nose, or eyes, they also become contaminated. That means that shared spaces, such as busy patient waiting areas, break rooms, restrooms, and reception desks are all at risk.

To combat the spread of flu, infection prevention best practices are imperative. Use proper hand hygiene and EPA-registered disinfecting products facility-wide. Remember that flu viruses can survive on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours!

It’s best to use an EPA-registered healthcare disinfectant that can kill a wide range of common pathogens. Opt for products that have short contact times, facilitating faster surface treatment and greater compliance from users. It is also important to think about the surfaces and equipment that need to be treated. Select a product compatible with the materials in your dental setting (e.g., stainless steel, acrylics, plastics). Ready-to-use products like Clorox Healthcare® VersaSure™ Cleaner Disinfectant Wipes are versatile enough to use on common healthcare surfaces facility-wide with the assurance of broad spectrum disinfection.

Promoting Proper Implementation and Healthy Habits Office-Wide

Preventing the spread of the flu is a team effort. Consult the team members most involved with cleaning and disinfecting to determine key surfaces requiring disinfection. Agree on the amount of product needed as well as the frequency of disinfection. Also, ensure everyone on staff receives regular training on how to use surface disinfectants properly. Establishing routine, easy-to-follow procedures and ensuring everyone knows what to do and why it’s important will help speed up the implementation process and encourage compliance.

Take advantage of the helpful resources from the CDC, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP) to promote infection prevention and control. The CDC’s Infection Prevention Checklist for Dental Settings and DentalCheck mobile app help make compliance easy. Other resources include the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen Standard, the CDC’s Oral Health page and the OSAP knowledge center.

In addition to thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, be sure to encourage healthy habits in the office. Make sure all staff and patients know: Wash hands thoroughly. Cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Stay home when sick. And get vaccinated. Practiced routinely, these simple steps can help ensure a cleaner, healthier, safer dental practice during flu season and all year round.

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