According to health experts in the next few weeks it will become apparent what direction the Coronavirus will swing, whether it fizzles out into a globally insignificant complaint or will it push on to become a pandemic which will have consequences for everyone on the planet.
A major health issue like this certainly makes Dentists as health professionals think about our responsibilities to the public and our co-workers in our industry.
I am sure if the status of this disease deteriorates as with all notifiable diseases our professions along with all other health professionals will be instructed from our health authorities what the appropriate course of action we must carry out to ensure the health and safety of all we come in contact with.
The potential danger of the Coronavirus really brings home the value of the measures that are in place already in dental practices throughout the country to ensure that our patients do not contract diseases from contact and treatments carried out.
For patients the New Zealand Dental Council and New Zealand Dental Association have strict guidelines for infection control that are mandatory by law and all practices can expect an audit at any time to ensure safe practices are being carried out.
So for patients, your dental appointments carries on for a period of time after leaving the dental operatory. This involves the wiping down of all surfaces that may be been contaminated during the treatment, the cleaning and bagging of all instruments used and then a heat and steam sterilizing process carried out by an autoclave.
All processes are coded and dated so that we have a record of every cycle of sterilization. Out autoclaves are routinely tested to ensure that they are delivering effective sterilization.
In our surgeries, both the Dentist and Dental Assistants have trained processes that we follow to prevent cross infection.
So what might just look like a well coordinating treatment process is actually a rehearsed and conscious aseptic technique.
In the community, there are diseases such as hepatitis, measles and HIV that we are quite acutely aware of already and our everyday infection control processes deal with admirably.
In our rooms, all Dentists and Dental Assistants wear masks to prevent passing on or catching airborne infections. If any of us are unwell it is expected that we don't present for work and we ask patients who aren't well not to present as well.
Safety goggles are worn by all to prevent the particulate matter being sprayed into the eyes which can emanate from our high speed drills and water/air syringes and gloves are always worn.
So the next time you are visiting your dental practice take a moment to observe the processes that you can see when you are being treated as usually none of them happen by chance and infection control is a cornerstone for all treatments.
Presented by Dr. Gary Winter BDS
Dental on Raffles