Unit 6: Clinical Operations
Clinical administration

Section 2: Infection Control, Environmental Health, and Safety

Infection Control and Regulation

Infection prevention and control is a critical component of safe oral health care. The primary goal is to prevent transmission of infectious diseases. In health care settings, including oral health care settings, the primary objective is to prevent (1) health-care-associated infections in patients and (2) occupational injuries and illnesses in staff. Although transmission of infectious agents among patients and oral health professionals is rare, non-compliance with infection-prevention procedures increases the likelihood that transmission will occur.

Each oral health care setting must develop a site-specific infection prevention and control program consisting of policies and standard operating procedures to ensure patient and staff safety. These policies and procedures should be consistent with current guidance and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC recommends that “all dental settings, regardless of the level of care provided, must make infection prevention a priority and should be equipped to observe standard precautions and other infection prevention recommendations contained in CDC’s Guidelines for Infection Control in Dental Health-Care Settings—2003.

A comprehensive program also integrates relevant regulations from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA), state and local statutes and regulations (from licensing boards, departments of public health, and environmental protection agencies, for example), applicable accreditation standards (such as those issued by the Joint Commission), and policies of the oversight institution. Each oral health care setting should have a designated infection prevention and safety coordinator to facilitate effective and efficient implementation of the written infection prevention and safety control program. In a small facility, this may be one individual; in a larger facility, a committee of designated staff may share this role. The infection prevention and safety coordinator should ensure that equipment and supplies (such as hand-hygiene products, safety devices to reduce percutaneous injuries, and personal protective equipment) are available and should maintain communication with all staff members to address specific issues or concerns related to infection prevention.

The Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP) offers an extensive online collection of resources, including information about the roles and responsibilities of the infection-prevention and safety coordinator.