Protecting Dental Professionals from Workplace Injuries: A Comprehensive Guide

Dental professionals are at risk of a variety of occupational hazards, including exposure to infections, percutaneous exposure, dental materials, radiation and noise, musculoskeletal disorders, psychological problems and dermatitis, respiratory disorders and eye injuries. To minimize the risk of these hazards, dentists must be aware of individual protective measures and appropriate sterilization or other high-level disinfection services. A tense posture at work can lead to musculoskeletal diseases, so it is important for dentists to stay up-to-date on the newest dental strategies and materials. Before high-level disinfection or sterilization, instruments must be cleaned thoroughly with soap and water or detergent, or by using a mechanical device.

People involved in cleaning and decontaminating instruments should wear sturdy rubber gloves to prevent hand injuries. Metallic and thermosetting dental instruments must be routinely sterilized between use with pressurized steam (autoclave), dry heat, or chemical vapor. The appropriateness of sterilization cycles should be verified through the periodic use of spore analysis devices. Heat- and vapor-sensitive chemical indicators can be used on the outside of each package to ensure that it has been exposed to a sterilization cycle.

For dental offices with state occupational safety plans, consult your area administrator for applicable requirements. While there are currently no specific OSHA standards for the dental industry, there are numerous biological, chemical, physical and environmental risks in dental offices that are subject to OSHA requirements. Dental office employees may be exposed to some of the most common safety hazards, such as possible slips, trips and falls, as well as unique occupational hazards that could result in injuries on the job. The ADA will support its members by providing them with access to current information, forms and prototypes to help them meet the occupational safety and health requirements that affect dental health care environments.

Creating a culture of safety in the workplace is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to contribute to the long-term success of your dental office. OSHA does not regulate the sterilization of dental equipment, but state and local regulatory authorities or dental boards may require compliance with CDC infection control regulations. The American Dental Association (ADA) began investigating the prevalence of hypersensitivity to type I latex among dental staff in 1994. In particular, dental office owners should be aware of special OSHA safety regulations related to radiation and blood-borne pathogens, as well as cuts, punctures, and lacerations. To ensure that your dental office is compliant with all safety regulations and best practices for protecting your staff from workplace injuries, it is important to stay up-to-date on all relevant laws and regulations. Additionally, it is important to create a culture of safety in your office by providing employees with proper training on how to safely handle equipment and materials.

Finally, it is essential to provide employees with access to personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves and masks when necessary. By taking these steps you can help protect your staff from workplace injuries.