For any health professional, the safety of the individual patient is paramount. Dental procedures range from simple check-ups to complex surgeries, and involve several risk factors. To ensure your practice continues to promote a safe environment for both staff and patients, consider implementing the following tips.
Follow Government Guidelines
In the first instance, as an absolute basic minimum standard, ensure your practice follows the legal requirements set by government guidelines. In the United States, for example, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for these.
Of course, check whether you are liable to follow these guidelines. In Australia, the equivalent is the National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards, governed by the Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care. For most public dental practices, accompanying accreditation is mandatory, but for private companies, it is entirely optional.
However, in all circumstances, closely following government guidelines is highly recommended. Using these standards as a framework for your practice, whether for accreditation or not, will help improve the overall quality of care.
Clean and Maintain Your Equipment
Dentists are reliant on highly technical equipment that needs to operate in a sterilized environment. Procedures must be in place to ensure every patient is kept safe before, during, and after treatment. This applies to every piece of kit used, whether small or large.
For example, dental handpieces are used daily and in a wide range of procedures. They undergo heavy use, which means they can quickly perform suboptimally if proper care is not applied.
Your practice must employ a rigorous care and maintenance protocol, ensuring that handpieces are cleaned, flushed, lubricated, and sterilized according to manufacturer guidelines.
Of course, at times your equipment may fail or show signs of age. In such scenarios, consult servicing specialists with a track record in professionally caring for dental equipment.
Conduct Risk Assessments
It is important that you ascertain potential safety issues at your dental practice by conducting regular health and safety risk assessments. These can highlight weak points, allowing you to put measures in place before an incident takes place.
Depending on your location, the law may already have guidelines in place for this. In general, risk assessments should be conducted by a “Competent Person” (in this case, as defined by OSHA). This translates to an individual with the necessary experience, knowledge, and skills to conduct the relevant assessment.
You should run these risk assessments regularly, perhaps using a rotating cast of employees. You may not want the same person each time, as this may lead the individual to miss certain things.
Provide Proper Staff Training
The safety of dental patients should be a primary concern for all staff members, from the administration team to dental health professionals alike. As such, training should be provided on a regular basis.
This should be performed in a systematic way, rather than haphazard training done on a whim. Follow guidelines, if they are available, and set aside the time and resources to ensure this is done properly.
For example, implement a formal incident investigation and reporting protocol. Ensure staff members are trained on emergency procedures. You should also implement a rigorous infection control protocol, including the provision of PPE, hand hygiene stations readily available throughout the practice, and aseptic techniques.
Safety in Radiation Practices
Dental practices often employ radiation, with patients exposed to it whenever X-rays are used, for example. This diagnostic procedure is relatively low risk, but care must nevertheless be taken.
The X-ray machine must be checked frequently to ensure it is still operating at peak efficiency, with no safety issues. Lead aprons should be used at all times, and they must be checked to ensure the absence of tears or cracks.
Staff members who use the machines must undergo training procedures, with regular refreshers in place. Tick all the government guidelines; in the United States, these are covered by the state legislature.
Safety Leads to Quality Service
The proper protocols not only ensure patient safety, they also lead to a high level of service delivery overall. Patient outcomes will not only be better, but customer satisfaction will also increase. In short, these tips are relevant not just in terms of ensuring safety, but improving wider practice performance.