In addition to following proper infection control procedures, dental lab personnel must be aware of their own personal hygiene practices. Properly cleaning and disinfecting contaminated items, like impressions, casts, and prosthetics can help prevent cross-contamination and possible infection among staff members. Together, using recommended infection control procedures and practices, along with effective communication among the dental office and its staff members, can help create an overall safer workplace for everyone involved.
In general, historically documented exposures of dentists and their patients to bacteria, viruses, and other microbes led to the development of guidelines by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Dental Associations. These documents include universal precaution guidelines for protecting health care workers and patients against infectious diseases transmitted through contact with body fluids such as saliva, mucous membranes, tears, urine, feces, vomit, semen, vaginal discharge, breast milk, sweat, sputum, respiratory droplets, aerosols, and sharps.5-7 In response to OSHA standards for bloodborne pathogens, effective infection control measures were developed by dentists and their staff. These include universal precautions, which require that every patient receive care using appropriate personal protective equipment; strict adherence to hand hygiene procedures; use of sharps containers; safe injection techniques; proper disposal of contaminated materials; and sterilization of instruments between patients.6
To transmit any infectious disease from one person to another, there needs to be a viable organism (a living thing), a place where the organisms live (reservoirs), ways they can get into people (transmission modes), and places where people go (portals). To prevent spreading an infectious disease like COVID-19, health care professionals must break as few links in the chain as they possibly can. In the dental lab, these include adhering to principles of asepsis (the practice of preventing contamination), ensuring adequate protection for staff members, using barriers when needed, and implementing basic infection control practices. All lab procedures must be performed according to strict guidelines set by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).
As mentioned above, dental laboratories are required to comply with all relevant federal, state, and local regulations that affect their operations and employees. As a component of the OSHA regulations and CDC recommendations, all personnel must be evaluated for potential occupational exposures.4,5 At-risk employees must be offered the hepatitis B vaccination, and all employees are to be provided initial and annual training regarding bloodborne pathogens. If an employee’s responsibilities change such that exposure risk increases, the individual must be given additional training consistent with the new duties. It is also important to note that infection control policies in the dental laboratory must be written, as they are for dental practices. They should be clear and concise, in a manner such that all laboratory personnel can clearly understand the policies. Written infection programs should be reviewed at least annually and periodically updated. All occupational exposure incidents should be recorded. Documentation of accidents should include the type of first aid administered, provision of healthcare professional counseling, post-exposure evaluation, and any indicated follow-up.
Infection Control Precautions
The receiving area technician must wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when receiving and disinfecting laboratory cases. After the items have been cleaned and disinfected, they can then be safely transferred to the production area. Because items in this area have already been disinfected, they no longer require special handling. The production area should be monitored to ensure that no contaminated items are allowed to enter. If an occupational injury occurs in this area of the laboratory, the involved prosthesis must be disinfected before being moved to another area of the laboratory.
Please note that the shipping area of a dental laboratory should not function as the receiving area unless it has been properly cleaned and disinfected after receiving cases.
Personal Protective Equipment
PPE must be worn in the dental laboratory when the potential for injury or exposure to bloodborne pathogens exists. It is recommended that disposable gloves be worn when in direct contact with contaminated items. Heavy-duty utility gloves are more puncture- and chemical-resistant than examination gloves and should be worn when cleaning and disinfecting equipment and surfaces.
When the potential for splashes, spatter, and aerosols are present, lab coats also must be worn, as well as masks covering the nose and mouth, eyewear (with protective side shields or goggles), or face shields. PPE should always be worn when cleaning and disinfecting cases and opening received items. Clinic jackets or lab coats should be changed daily or more frequently if soiled, and should not be worn outside of the dental laboratory.
Dental Laboratory Areas
All clinical materials being sent to a laboratory should be cleaned and disinfected by the dental office that sent it, and identified as such. If the dental laboratory is uncertain about whether disinfection has been performed, the laboratory should carry out the process with an EPA-registered, intermediate-level disinfectant following the manufacturer’s instructions.
The chemical disinfectants must be compatible with the dental impression materials used and must not affect the dimensional accuracy or surface texture. If the accuracy of the impression is compromised, the resulting gypsum casts will also be compromised, which may result in ill-fitting and nonfunctional prostheses. No single disinfectant is compatible with all impression materials, so the manufacturer of the impression material and disinfectant should be consulted. A laboratory might perform a “test-run” if a new combination of impression material and disinfectant is being used.
How Going Digital Can Improve Your Dental Lab
In order for people to live longer lives, they need dental care. However, there are some things that dentists cannot provide because their skills are limited. In recent years, technological advances have been made within the medical field, specifically within dentistry.
With dental lab websites like Dental Laboratorio from Dental Laboratory Innovative, you’ll be able to create beautiful restorations for patients faster than ever before! In order for dentists to stay competitive, they need to adopt the latest technologies such as digital dentistry. To improve the quality of your treatments, you’ll first want to upgrade your dental laboratory by adding new technology and equipment.
Benefits of Having a Dental Lab with CAD/CAM Contributed by Dental Laboratorio Innovative development in technology is changing the world of dentistry and taking the profession to the highest level.
Protection of dental laboratory and dental office employees from bloodborne pathogens is mandated by OSHA regulations. The same infection control protocols must be followed in the dental laboratory as in the dental office. Adhering to Standard Precautions, using aseptic technique, following proper disinfection and sterilization procedures, and wearing appropriate personal protective equipment can prevent disease transmission from contaminated items entering the dental laboratory. Effective communication and coordination of efforts between the laboratory and dental office are critical components of a successful infection control program.