Dental and dental hygiene offices adhere to some of the highest infection prevention and control standards in the health care field. These standards are set by each provincial regulatory body and must be followed by all oral health professionals. Your dental hygienist starts keeping you safe even before you arrive and doesn’t stop until after your appointment is done.
What does the dental hygienist do to prepare for my appointment?
- Cleans all chairs, trays, lights, countertops, handles, and ultrasonic units using disinfectant wipes or spray
- May place single-use barriers on touchable surfaces, such as head rests, light handles, suction devices, handpieces used for polishing, and computer keyboards
- Sets out wrapped, sterilized instruments
- Ensures countertops in the dental operatory are clutter free
- Purges the water lines to ensure they remain bacteria free
What can I expect at the beginning of my appointment?
- Your dental hygienist will wash their hands and put on safety glasses, a new mask, and new gloves.
- Your dental hygienist may also wear a gown and use a face shield.
- Your dental hygienist will open a sterile cassette or pouch of instruments in front of you.
- You may be asked to use a pre-procedural mouth rinse to reduce bacteria in your mouth.
What can I expect during my appointment?
- You will be asked to wear clean safety glasses for the duration of your appointment to prevent eye injury.
- Your dental hygienist may change gloves several times to avoid cross-contamination, especially after touching items like keyboards, pens, and drawers.
- Your dental hygienist may wash their hands or use hand sanitizer several times.
- Your dentist will put on new gloves and a mask before examining your mouth, teeth, and gums.
What else should I know?
- You have the right to question the office on their infection control procedures.
- The cassettes and pouches of instruments are sterilized after every appointment.
- The office keeps records of all sterilization cycles for instruments to ensure that sterilizers are working correctly.
Has anything changed during the COVID-19 pandemic?
COVID-19 has created new challenges for the dental profession. Because the virus is spread by droplets from the nose and mouth, and possibly by aerosols, oral health professionals are following even more rigorous infection control protocols to protect you, your family, and everyone in the office. These protocols vary by province, but here is what you should expect until the pandemic subsides.
- All office staff will wear either a surgical mask or a N95 mask at all times.
- Your dental hygienist may also wear a head covering and/or shoe coverings.
- You will be asked to wear a mask and to practise physical distancing within the office before and after your appointment.
- You may be asked to rinse with a hydrogen-peroxide or iodine based solution to reduce viruses in your mouth. This rinse may have a slightly unpleasant taste.
- Operatories may now have permanent or temporary doors to contain any potential contaminants from aerosol-generating procedures, such as the use of ultrasonic scalers and handpieces (e.g., “drills”) for teeth polishing and fillings.
- Your dental hygienist may only use hand instruments to remove plaque and calculus and may postpone polishing to a later visit to avoid producing aerosols.
- You may be asked to wear a gown or large bib if an aerosol-generating procedure is required.
- You may hear about fallow time, which is the amount of time an operatory is left unoccupied after an appointment to let any contaminants in the air settle before the room is cleaned.
- You may see air purifiers in each operatory to clean the air more quickly and decrease fallow time.
At all times, your dental hygienist is committed to maintaining a safe and healthy environment to protect you and your family. See for yourself at your next dental hygiene appointment!