patient safety

4 Ways To Encourage Patient Safety In Your Dental Office

patient safety

Patient safety in a dental office is often interconnected with the quality of care received. (Photo courtesy of 123RF).

The following guest post on patient safety in healthcare was submitted by Emma Sturgis.

Safety is an important element of any business that serves the general population, and dental offices are no exception. Providing a safe environment is one way that dentists can help their patients relax and have a good experience during dental appointments. Following are 4 ways that dentists can encourage patient safety in their dental clinics and offices.

Follow OSHA Standards For Bloodborne Pathogens

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has established standards to keep both staff and patients free from exposure to bloodborne pathogens. These standards include:

– employee training
– proper disposal of hazardous waste materials
– personal protection gear such as gloves, masks, gowns, and eye protection
– written plan on how to control hazardous waste, needles and other “sharps”, and what to do if anyone is exposed. This plan should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis.
– proper documentation of the infection controls in place

All the employees should be aware of what the standards are for handling biowaste products to prevent bloodborne pathogen contamination. Knowing and following the standards keeps not only the patients safe, but the staff as well.

Modern And Well-Maintained Equipment

Using modern up-to-date equipment is another way dental offices can encourage patient safety. Not only should the equipment be modern, but it must be maintained to keep it safe and identify any weaknesses that could lead to an accident.

Procedure and medical chairs are a perfect example. Each chair needs to be designed for the comfort and safety of not only the patient, but the dentist and other staff members as well. The chair needs to be able to be positioned so that the dentist has easy access to the patient without strain or getting tired during long procedures.

Avoid Cross-Contamination By Keeping A Clean Environment

It goes without saying that every inch of the dental office or clinic needs to be clean. It’s not enough that things look clean. Surfaces need to be wiped daily because if there is dust, there is bound to be bacteria as well. Chairs need to be carefully wiped between each patient. Things like drawer handles, x-ray switches, and anything that gets touched needs to be wiped with an antibacterial disinfectant wipe. In addition, the front desk and the waiting room need to be clean and clutter-free. This will help the patient to feel comfortable that the entire dental practice is a tight operation where nothing is overlooked.

Radiation Safety Practices

Exposure to radiation happens whenever x-rays are taken of a patient. Another way to encourage patient safety is to practice radiation safety for both the patient and the dental staff. Ensure that the x-ray machine is operating at peak efficiency with periodic inspections. Make sure the lead aprons are used as required and are in good shape with no cracks or tears. Any aprons that are showing their wear should be discarded and replaced. Proper storage of the lead aprons will help prolong their life and prevent radiation leaks. Ensure that any dental personnel using the x-ray machines are trained in the proper use of the machines for both patient protection and their own.

Patient safety and overall quality of care go hand in hand. If a patient sees that safety is a top priority in dental offices and clinics, their perception will be that the overall care provided is also a top priority. Dentistry has risks and hazards just like any other medical procedure. From the high speed drills, to the chemicals used in dental procedures, to the fact that dentistry takes place so close to the airway, the risks involved with dental work can be life-threatening. Keeping the focus on patient safety will help minimize the risks. Patient safety is an important part of every dental practice.

Emma is a freelance writer currently living in Boston, MA. She writes most often on education and business. To see more from Emma, say hi on Twitter @EmmaSturgis2