Facts and Myths Infection Control

infection control myths and facts

Facts and Myths of infection control (heard or read in 2016)

  1. Via “tracking” you can demonstrate a patient hasn’t got an infection from your practice (controlling infection control!)
  2. An ultrasonic is needed even if you have a washer-disinfector.
  3. It’s quicker to ask the ADA than seek the answer yourself.
  4. No-one has ever got an infection from a dental practice.
  5. Ever Sterilisation cycle needs a PCD (Helix or Bowie Dick)
  6. An ICMP (infection control management plan) replaces your sterilisation manual.

Let’s look at the statements –
1. Tracking instruments
Tracking is required to keep dentists and their staff “on the ball”. Tracking tries to demonstrate that a particular pack of instruments has been through a particular steriliser cycle. BUT unless your tracking system takes a picture of the pack with the steriliser tape color changed you aren’t even really demonstrating the pack went through a cycle!
Most systems only tell you that you know the number of a cycle that has been completed.

However that doesn’t mean I disagree with tracking. We track all our instruments because I think it is good idea. However personally I would be cautious about investing a lot of money into a scanning tracker system at this stage because I think they will improve in the future. I imagine a time when the scanner picks up the changes in the packaging that occur with sterilisation rather than just reading a bar code that remains unchanged in the steriliser.

Of course sterilisation is a theoretical practice. When we sterilise we do so with an assurance that the possiblity instruments have one viable bacteria on them is one item in one million. However we know that if instruments are not cleaned properly then this figure is incorrect and people have been infected via instruments that have been through sterilisers (not dental instruments) at correct time, temperature and pressure.
If stats were taken literally:
21,000 dentists in Australia  X 48 sterilisation cycles = 1 million cycles
So does that mean that you never want to be the 49th patient a dentist sees because you are likely to have THE VIABLE micro-organism!
Nahhh… but it isn’t that simple.

Track all your instruments for convenience because simple systems are the quickest and the best.

2. Ultrasonic Cleaners
Ultrasonic cleaners were basically introduced for staff occupational health and safety (safe non-scrubbing). They are designed to reduce operator error in instrument cleaning. However in dentistry we all know that unless you remove composite and cements from instruments immediately chairside then an ultrasonic cleaner nor a washer-disinfector are not going to work.
Washer-disinfectors are used similarly to ultrasonics in dental practices so generally if you use one then you dont need the other. You should speak to other dentists who use washer-disinfectors or ultrasonics when you are looking to buy a new one. Some washer-disinfectors have an ultrasonic mechanism built in.

Testing ultrasonic cleaners each morning is for the benefit of the practice. It is of no use placing instruments into an ultrasonic cleaner that is not working!!!
Also remember that research has shown if you place instruments into dirty ultrasonic cleaning liquid they will be dirtier than when you put them in.

3. ADA versus Google
It’s always nice to speak to a person at the ADA but for many issues it is quicker googling and asking the source. Examples: Fair Work – look up the staff award and read it yourself. You are supposed to have an award accessible for the staff anyway; Long Service leave – this is a state based function and Victoria has a really helpful help line.
The ADA committee members have a wealth of knowledge but you need to allow time to get onto the correct person.
Other options of information:
Generally some of the facebook groups for dentistry are interesting for different opinions and you can often get a quick response as dentists play online. The ADA Inc site has helpful HR resources but check that they are current and applies to your own state.

Remember the ADA in Australia is a professional group of dentists and have no power to set “rules”. Even the ADA infection control guidelines can be seen as an “interpretation” of AS 4815 and the NHMRC guidelines. The Dental Board resources should be looked at first for clinical advice. The Oral Therapeutic Guidelines are also important for conventional requirements. The ADA has representatives on the Therapeutic Guidelines Committees and on Standards Australia committees.
For SmartDentist subscribers check out your “Clinical Guidelines” [Resources > Clinical Guidelines] first as this is a group of documents to help you make effective clinical decisions.

4. No-one has ever got an infection from a dental practice (other than the contriversial HIV dentist)
This is not correct. There have been documented cases of infection transfer.
The recent 4 cases of Infection control breaches in 4  NSW practices has had a review and they know 26 people from the practices have now newly discovered they have BBV.
http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/reports/Documents/dental-investigation-report-2016.pdf
Check out this most recent review on dental transmission.
https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/infectioncontrol/pdf/pathogentransmission.pdf

5. Every sterilisation cycle needs a PCD
Helix or Bowie Dick devices are required at the start of each day for an empty steriliser. They aim to “challenge” a Process – hence the name Process Challenge Devices. The process they “challenge” is the ability of the steriliser to remove all air from the steriliser so it can fill up totally with steam. You can use a specific device made to test this in your normal cycles but these tend to be slightly different in nature. While this is heavily promoted by a particular supplier of these consumables (yes, they sell them) the evidence for their use has not been declared manditory by AS 4815.
The requirement by Australian Standards is to have the device used at the start of the day.

6. An ICMP (infection control management plan) replaces your sterilisation manual.
No your sterilisation policy manual is only part of the infection control management plan. The idea of a “management plan” is that you:

  1. Work out what you need to manage.e.g. what are your infection control risks? Name and sham each one of them. Use a Risk analysis tool to document the risks and have them in your risk register so you can review them at a later date.
  2. Document how you are managing these infection control risks. e.g. this is via your policies and procedures so this is where your infection control manual fits in. You cant just use the ADA guidelines as that document isn’t a procedure manual and says in some parts…”you can do this….or you can do that”.
  3. Plan staff training so everyone is part of implementing your plan

SmartDentist subscribers have an online Infection control management plan – easy!