The prevention of disease transmission
For the past 20 years you have heard the dental profession talk about preventive dentistry-brushing and flossing, the use of fluorides, and pit and fissure sealants.
Today, dentistry is using new ways to protect your health-through the prevention of disease transmission. Cleanliness and proper sterilization techniques have been a part of dental practices for many years, but the AIDS, hepatitis B, and herpes viruses have made these techniques more important. The dental profession has made several visible changes in the way dental services are provided, changes that ensure your health and safety in the dental office.

What changes are being made?
1. Dentists, hygienists, and assistants are wearing surgical gloves, eye glasses, and masks with each patient to prevent the possibility of microorganisms from being transferred during dental procedures.

2 Dental instruments are heat sterilized, or autoclaved, between each patient to protect against the possibility of cross-contam i nation from one patient to another.
Heat sterilization kills any potentially harmful microorganisms.

3. Dental personnel are vaccinated against the hepatitis B virus.

4. Special precautions are taken in the handling and disposal of potentially hazardous waste and materials in the dental office.

5. All dental personnel receive training in patient and environmental protection procedures.

Will these changes increase my dental bills?

The new sterilization procedures being used are costly, but important, considering the protection that is provided. As a result, you may see a slight increase in your dental bill that reflects a portion of this expense.

Are these changes recommended by major health organizations?

The Centers for Disease Control of the Public Health Service, the Academy of General Dentistry and the American Dental Association, state boards of health, schools of dentistry, and many other health agencies and professional associations are strongly supportive of these measures.

What can you do to help?
1. There are several things you should do. At each dental visit, report any changes in your health status. Have you been sick? Are you on a diet? Are you taking any medication or undergoing treatment for any medical condition? This will help your dentist provide the best treatment based on your health needs.

2. Ask questions. Ask about sterilization techniques and procedures used in the dental office. If the dentist is not wearing a mask, ask why. Find out if gloves are changed between each patient. How are instruments sterilized? They should be heat sterilized between every patient. Don't hesitate to ask about the steps the dentist takes to ensure your protection.
Your dentist will be happy to answer your questions.

Return to Facts About Dentistry & Services

Send comments to:Dr. Jay Last Update February 16, 2006