As a dental professional, you will be more aware than most that bacteria, viruses and fungi are everywhere – in the air, on surfaces and in our food. They are an unavoidable part of life, and while most, thankfully, are harmless, some have the potential to be extremely dangerous.
Every winter the news seems to be full of recent outbreaks of diseases caused by these organisms, such as MRSA often associated with the healthcare industry. Indeed, in January this year, a huge spike in illnesses caused by the Norovirus was reported in the UK. However, the number of reported cases of both MRSA and E-coli do still seem to be falling, with figures showing significant reductions in recent years.
While most people overcome simple infections without too much of a problem, those with a compromised immune system, caused by either chronic illness or certain medications, young children and the elderly are all at a much greater risk. A more serious infection in a vulnerable person could become fatal.
This is of course, a high priority within the dental profession, with infection control and prevention procedures required as a mandatory element for all practices. Any surface, instrument or device that comes into direct contact with an infected patient or practitioner has the potential to harbour pathogens and help spread them around the practice. While the greatest risk of contamination is associated with the use of improperly sterilized instruments and equipment, other areas present a very real threat.
From the reception area to the surgery rooms, dozens of people will circulate around the average practice every day, introducing a variety of different bacteria each time, which can infect everything from chairs, to light switches, door handles and children’s toys. As a result, your practice team must put emphasis on ensuring these infections are destroyed effectively, and measures are put in place to prevent the future colonisation of such pathogens.
Not only do these protocols keep visiting patients and your staff safe from infection, they are also necessary to ensure dental practices meet the governing regulations. As you know, HTM 01-05 and CQC outline the minimum standards every healthcare provider in the UK must meet in order to maintain registration and continuing offering services to the public. These regulations must be interpreted and applied to dentistry, and you must be able to demonstrate your practice’s compliance through detailed written records.
Such protocols of course include procedures followed at the beginning and end of every day, as well as between patients, in an attempt to remove pathogens from the environment and reduce the risk of transmitting infections between patients and from patient to professional and vice versa. Instruments must be sterilised effectively by suitable methods, hands should be disinfected and the surfaces of all equipment should be decontaminated regularly and efficiently. It is important to remind your entire dental team that this is not an area that allows for complacency.
In order to clean and disinfect everything from worktops to the dental chair to the reception desk, it is essential that your team have the appropriate tools. The best infection control products now available are highly effective against many of the known viral and bacterial infections, when used as instructed. They can protect patients and staff alike from a wide range of infections and illnesses including MRSA, TB, enveloped viruses such as HIV and Hepatitis B, rotaviruses, and papovaviruses.
These products are effective in low concentrations and are available in liquids or wipes to decontaminate surfaces, and depending on the alcohol content, can be used on a variety of materials such as ceramic, glass, acrylic and laminates.
One provider of such infection control products is schülke, an internationally renowned company with over 120 years of hygiene experience. The extensive product range is compliant with HTM 01-05 regulations and chlorhexidine-free, and includes both alcohol-based and alcohol-free products to suit all surface materials. Products are manufactured with advanced, safe and environmentally friendly production processes.
In addition, schülke also provides specialist training in infection prevention, to ensure every member of your practice team has the knowledge and skills to contribute towards the on-going decontamination process. You can even make savings through repeat purchases with schülke’s Plus Rewards Scheme, which also enables you to utilise the help of a local consultant who can provide tailored advice and guidance on the local regulations for infection control.
Microorganisms are a natural part of our environment and we cannot escape them. It is, therefore, essential that your dental practice ensures that pathogens are limited and controlled to ensure both patients and staff are safeguarded. By employing the help of clinically proven products, you and your team can make a huge difference to your patients’ health.
For more information, please call 0114 254 3500 or visit www.schulke.co.uk.
 Macnair, T. (2010) ‘Infections’, BBC Health, available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/physical_health/conditions/infections1.shtml
 Satran, J. (2013) ‘Norovirus Infections Spike In UK, Canada This Winter’ The Huffington Post, 7 January, available at:
 ‘Health Protection Report’, Health Protection Agency, 19 October 2012: available at http://www.hpa.org.uk/hpr/infections/hcai.htm