Reporting lack of infection control in dental practice

The newest dental office in town promotes itself as a heavenly oasis. In the waiting area, written in embellished cursive, is a sign that promises a relaxing dental visit and invites patients to ask about add-on services such as Botox and teeth whitening. Lavender aromatherapy greets patients when they arrive, and the sounds of Enya can be heard throughout the spacious office. A customized saltwater aquarium lines the side wall. The plump waiting room chairs sit on ornately carved wooden legs.

The front desk team wears matching sweaters with their names embroidered on them that are color-coordinated with the beige and black accents of the office. The lower level of the office is a dedicated training facility and conference room, complete with a drink station and large-screen television. The clinic has a total of 12 rooms, six operatories on each side, that line a long, winding hallway. The beige walls are accented by white Corinthian columns, and grapes droop from the latticework overhead, imitating a Grecian garden.

I had just completed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) infection control training and was conducting a mock inspection of this office accompanied by a safety officer, a hygienist. At the start she confided that she had concerns about some of this office’s infection control practices. I thought, “Surely I’m not going to find much in such an immaculate palace.”

However, by the end of the assessment, the practice had amassed an inordinate number of “opportunities” for correction. Some of the things we observed were running the ultrasonic without the lid on (with a glass of orange juice sitting nearby), not changing out barriers or disinfecting surfaces between every patient, and team members exiting restrooms without washing their hands and then setting up cookies for arriving patients.