cross contamination, dental assisting, dental hygiene, dentistry, infection control, rdh

Prioritize Patient Safety

When we visit the dentist, we place our trust in the dental professional(s) who is treating us.  As patients, we also expect the dental instruments to be clean, safe and in good working order.  Also we listen to our dental professionals instructions (open wide, swallow, bite, close, etc) during our visit.

However, patients instructed to “Close” during routine suctioning, unknowingly put themselves at great risk of cross contamination from the last patients fluids, blood, bacteria and chemicals in the line.  The concern, Saliva Ejector Backflow, has been proven to potentially occur in an estimated 21-25% of patients who close around suction straws, or 1 in 5 patients receive the junk in their mouth from the last patient. (1a)patientclose

Originally discovered in the 1990’s, research proved backflow occurs from low-volume saliva ejectors when the pressure in the patient’s mouth is less than that in the evacuator.  Simply closing around the suction straw forms a seal around the tip of the ejector that creates a partial vacuum. That vacuum can cause the last patients fluids, blood, bacteria, chemicals in the line, etc. to go back into the patients mouth.

Why hasn’t the industry made it mandatory to prevent Saliva Ejector Backflow?

Until now, alleviating the backflow risk has been reliant on teaching and educating dental professionals to instruct patients to not close.

Unfortunately, it occurs much too often.  At a recent tradeshow we questioned 100+ Hygiene and Assisting Professionals about backflow prevention.  Responses were as follows:meeting pic

Q&A:  How do you prevent the potential Saliva Ejector Backflow risk to you patients: responses

  • 0 respondents used any device to alleviate patient backflow
  • An estimated 5 respondents warned patients to not close around suction straws
  • 100+ respondents had no idea about backflow risk

What is the reason for the lack of education or prevention?

This answer will vary dependent on the following: where and how dental professionals were trained / your particular dentist & office expectations or lack thereof / habits / and the office or space lacks the necessary tools and devices to manage patient care properly.

Dental Schools and teaching facilities set the tone early on.  We’ve spoken with numerous programs that only wipe the exterior surfaces between patients and state it’s too expensive to clean the valves properly.  While other programs have a instrument manager in charge of maintaining suction components.  In these situations the students, unfortunately, do not learn valves pose a risk and why.

Finally, in many private offices, strict budgets are set on infection control products.  In other offices, the doctor sets the tone that it’s not important to offer patients clean evacuation valves because he or she never experienced it and its not mandatory.  Therefore, do the bare minimum.  While in others, efficient patient turnover is the priority so the room needs to be turned over quickly vs correctly.

What does the CDC say?

Backflow occurs when previously suctioned fluids present in the suction tubing flow back into the patient’s mouth. Backflow can occur when:

  • There is pressure in a patient’s mouth (a result of closing their lips and forming a seal around the tip of the ejector) that is less than in the saliva ejector (similar to how liquid flows back into a cup after drinking through a straw).
  • The suction tubing attached to the ejector is positioned above the patient’s mouth.
  • A saliva ejector is used at the same time as other evacuation (high-volume) equipment.

Although no adverse health effects associated with the saliva ejector have been reported, dental health care personnel (DHCP) should be aware that backflow could occur when they use a saliva ejector. DHCP should not advise patients to close their lips tightly around the tip of the saliva ejector to evacuate oral fluids. DHCP should contact the manufacturer of the dental unit to review proper use and maintenance procedures, including appropriate cleaning and disinfection methods.

Our view…

We believe patient safety should be the #1 priority.  The dental industry and the CDC take valve backflow too lightly.  Every day we view valves that leak and are filled with debris.
dirtyvalve
We are hopeful the CDC and the Dental Industry reassess the risk involved.  In the past, it was not possible to alleviate backflow easily and cost-effectively.  Instead, we relied on dental professional to warn patients.  This strategy is not working.
DOVE Dental Products introduced Disposable Backflow Prevention Saliva Ejectors in 2017.  They eliminate any potential risk.
Our original founder, a Dentist, stated about backflow “its not a matter of if a breach will occur, its a matter of when”.  Backflow is real, its proven.  We are 100% confident dental patients would want protection against it.

(1a) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9868623

 

 

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Your Everyday Decisions Are More Important Than You Realize, by Mrs. Pat Pine RDH

Swab Test Case Study

I was asked to perform an informal case study on dental office evacuation valves. This was a challenge in many ways. Several offices I contacted were leery to allow swab testing in their offices even though they said they felt confident of their disinfection process. My infection control flag went up many times in those practices. If they felt confident, why are they leery of doing a simple swab test? What was the risk to them? One office wanted to check with his lawyer, wanted my license, and much more seeming ridiculous information. The offices that were welcoming wanted to know how they could improve their infection prevention protocol. A big benefit was they received bags of disposable valves for allowing testing of their disinfected valves.

Testing was done to determine if the valves were contaminated even after disinfection. What are the consequences of the unknown invisible organic matter? What pathogens are nesting here? When disinfected what pathogens are being reduced or present?

As an experienced infection prevention and safety specialist, I performed the swab-testing. After reviewing the results, I was glad I had donned the appropriate PPE. Yet maybe I should have worn a hazmat suit!

The Down and Dirty Results

I processed 212 valve surfaces and determined they were YES contaminated after a routine disinfecting protocol. Discovering the bacterial load on dental unit vacuum valves left me with an uneasy feeling. Are we creating a healthy environment for our patients? Occupational Safety, Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP) has repeatedly stated that dental patients should be in a safe dental environment which includes the entire dental facility and all the processes.

Just to begin to discover where problems happen, the first question should be if the valves were disinfected according to manufacturer’s instructions? Metal valve companies recommend routine disassembly, scrubbing and reprocessing of the surfaces between patients. Minimal industry standard between patient protocol should be to:

  • Wipe once to clean
  • Wipe a second time to disinfect

Saliva Ejector and Backflow Risks

It’s not new information that back flow from low-volume saliva ejectors is happening. Research has shown that when a patient seals their lips around the tip of the saliva ejector, backflow can occur via the pressure created in the patient’s mouth. Studies report that gravity pulls fluid back toward patient’s mouth when tube positioning is above the patient’s mouth or when both high or low suction is used at the same time. Unfortunately, like not going in the water for 30 minutes after eating myth, we have taught our patients to close their lips around the saliva ejector.

The CDC recommends that the dental community advise their patients not to close their lips around the saliva ejector. CDC concluded that research confirms the significant risk in backflow with microbial cross contamination between patients.

Is your office using old, outdated operating procedures that are as myth based as watermelon seeds germinating in your stomach? Updated written policies and procedures are a must for any dental setting. Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) can be used for training and OSHA safety purposes. These policies should be reviewed on an annual basis. Check lists are powerful reminders of what might be forgotten in daily routines. (Go to http://www.oshatrainingbootcamp.com/ to find checklists and more.)

Replace the Old with the New

Replacing an old car with a new car increases safety with airbags, hands free phone connection and camera’s in the rear panel to prevent from hitting a child or running over a bicycle. The prevention is worth every penny. Valves are now available to keep patient’s safe in any dental facility. New disposable versions are clean and offer backflow prevention. We need to protect our patients from microbial bio-hazardous debris and possible transmission of disease via backwash. The Hippocratic Oath and professional ethics standards demand that we first, do no harm.

About the Author

Mrs. Pat Pine, RDH is a national and international speaker specializing in OSHA, infection control, lasers and orofacial myology. She brings thirty years of experience in dentistry to provide exciting and evidenced based programs. Pat believes that safety, infection control, and whole health are important to providers and patients alike. Her philosophy is an empowered team is a healthy team, which in turn creates an unstoppable referral formula. Ms. Pine conducts in-office training’s, boot camps, online seminars, and dental/dental hygiene conventions. She is a member of OSAP speaker’s/consultant’s bureau and publishes regularly in several dental magazines. Pat reminds others that education doesn’t stop at clinical treatment. It is an on-going process to enrich ones-self and bring the highest quality of care to patients. Pat can be reached at info@oshatrainingbootcamp.com

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Your Suction Lines Remain Dirty “After Flushing”

The following images display the interior of a dental vac suction line “before and after” flushing.  Debris will remain regardless, unless the interior surfaces are scrubbed.  Since this is not possible, “Backflow” of suction devices should be a major concern.  Our new Saliva Ejector Backflow Prevention Valve alleviates the risk!interior valve after flushing