Modern dentistry needs modern protection


  Posted by: Dental Design      6th February 2020

If you type ‘How has dentistry changed in the last 10 years?’ into your browser, you’ll get over a million hits in less than a second. It’s a popular topic for discussion among dental professionals and the changes over the last decade or so have been dramatic, exciting and all encompassing. They include the shift towards prevention, the growth of digital technology and development of new tools, materials and techniques which have enabled dentists to treat more people than ever before.

In part, patients’ changing needs and higher expectations have helped shape modern dentistry. Patients expect a quality service, a caring, holistic approach to oral care and stable results from any treatment that they have consented to. Practices have had to adapt and evolve to meet these needs and this has had a knock-on effect on the dental team. It is now not unusual for a dental practice to have a dental hygienist or dental therapist in situ, who see patients for routine preventive-maintenance appointments, leaving the dentist free to focus on delivering more specialist treatment.

The multiskilled team

The emergence of a multiskilled team is a key feature of modern dentistry. With dentists now able to perform procedures that would have been unachievable not that long ago, it makes sense for other dental care professionals (DCPs) to be able to provide more proactive support than they did in the past and have greater involvement in the delivery of patient care. Mandatory registration to the General Dental Council (GDC) has also led to increased responsibility and recognition for the work all DCPs do, or are capable of doing with the appropriate training. Before registration, dental nurses could be trained by dentists, rather than requiring formal qualifications, for example. And before 1992, when the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at Work Regulations were introduced, dental nurses may have worked without PPE, even though spillages of toxic materials such as mercury would have been a common occurrence.

Our new understanding of safety

 The idea of a dental nurse, dental hygienist or dental therapist not being as adequately protected as the dentist now seems unthinkable. But when we are considering how dentistry has changed over the last 10 years, our greater understanding of infection control is an important part. We now know that infection control is more than just handwashing and a good, but basic clean of surfaces and equipment. There are a range of measures that every modern practice should be implementing to keep the entire dental team and all the people they look after safe. These measures include sourcing the best PPE and ensuring that everyone, not just the dentist, knows how they should be dressed for delivering every kind of treatment that the practice offers. High quality preventive care should be safe care; this is what patients expect and this is what modern practices must offer.

What should your PPE consist of?

PPE for the dental setting includes anything that could prevent and control infection, from aprons to goggles and gloves. PPE must be frequently assessed, properly stored and has to be used correctly in order to be as effective as it can be.[i] If PPE is not removed properly, this may lead to “contamination of the user’s skin, own clothes, uniform or scrubs, hair, face and hands.”[ii]

Protocols for assessing the risk of contamination will dictate what is required. These protocols should be reviewed regularly and all members of the dental team should be familiar with them, so that they know what is needed and when. Depending on the treatment, the practitioner may need to wear an apron over their regular uniform. If splashed between different procedures with the same patient, all DCPs should know if this means an immediate change of PPE.

The bedrock of PPE

The bedrock of your PPE in the dental practice will be gloves. They are the most frequently worn item and should be used whenever there is a risk that bodily fluids could contaminate hands, or when handling contaminated tools. Patients will expect to see everyone in the treatment room wearing gloves, for peace of mind and reassurance of a quality service with safety at its heart.

Gloves should be safe, compliant and authenticated with the appropriate health and safety standards marks. They should also be comfortable for the practitioner to wear, and feel comfortable for the patient when their mouth is being touched. With antibiotic resistant infections on the rise, the quality of all PPE, including gloves, has never been more important. Ensure your practice is stocked with a wide range of gloves that provide the level of protection that both patient and practitioner require. Personal preference is important for guaranteeing comfort, so this must be taken into consideration when choosing gloves for the dental team. Initial Medical has gloves for every task and every practitioner. There are various options of materials (latex, non-latex, nitrile and vinyl), colours and sizes. You can choose powdered or powder free, or even fragranced gloves to enhance the patient experience.

Dentistry has changed incredibly, so who can predict what could be achieved in the next 10 years? With members of the dental team taking on more responsibility, as part of a holistic, preventive approach to dental care, they must be as adequately protected as the dentist. With a greater understanding of infection control and patient expectations of safe treatment, whether they are there for a routine checkup or a more invasive procedure, quality PPE is now a central part of modern dentistry.  


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Author: Rebecca Waters, Category Manager, Initial Medical


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[i] Pang V, Carter Y, Scott J, Salazar G, Johnson V. How to use personal protective equipment. Nursing Times. 2014;110(51):14-6.

[ii] Pang V, Carter Y, Scott J, Salazar G, Johnson V.

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