How to Prioritize Health and Safety as a Dentist

by Kate Sheppard

Visiting the dentist on a regular basis is important for good oral health maintenance and management. Before the pandemic, dentists were seeing patients anywhere from every 3 months to every 2 years, depending on the individual’s requirements. However, since the onslaught of COVID-19 many appointments had to be cancelled and rearranged. 

Now, as we emerge from the pandemic and restrictions are greatly reduced, dentists are accepting patients through their doors once more. And, after almost 2 years of delays and booking cancellations, it’s fair to say that the queues are long! 

As dentists grapple with over-full schedules, long working hours, and a seemingly endless number of patients to see, it’s more important than ever before that health and safety is a priority. In this article, we will be sharing how you can prioritize health and safety in your dentist’s operatory, even during your busiest times. 

Why Health and Safety is Important 

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s how imperative health and safety in the workplace really is. Many wrongly assume that dentistry is relatively free from risk. However, with exposure to radiation, illness and infection from patients, and injury caused from repetitive strain or poor posture (to name a few!), dentistry certainly poses numerous risks to dentists and their teams. 

By prioritizing health and safety within dentistry, it is possible to: 

Retain employees for longer: In fact, according to a research report by The Science of Care, 60% of workers who felt cared for by their employers stayed for three or more years. In the report, the term “care” is defined as providing the steps and solutions necessary for the “health, welfare, maintenance, and protection” of someone and their individual needs. 

Cultivate a more enjoyable working environment: The better the work environment, the more motivated and high-performing your employees will be. By prioritizing health and safety in the workplace, you are showing your team and your patients just how much you care. In doing so, you cultivate an environment where individuals feel listened to, supported, safe, and happy. 

Reduce medical negligence: Unfortunately, medical negligence can and does happen. There are many reasons for it, ranging from staff negligence to over-working and burnout. However, according to McCarthy Co & Solicitors, “medical negligence can cause serious injuries […] it can have a devastating impact on the quality of your life and long-term consequences for your health.” Prioritizing health and safety as a dentist helps reduce the likelihood of medical negligence by caring for your employees.

As you can see, prioritizing health and safety as a dentist can have significantly positive effects, both for your employees and your patients. However, most importantly, it ensures you can provide a consistently high standard of care to your patients. Now that you know why it’s so important, and the effect it can have, let’s take a look at how you can prioritize health and safety. 

Provide Appropriate Working Equipment 

One of the most common workplace complaints is as a result of back pain or repetitive strain. Both of these issues, and many more, can be prevented simply by providing the appropriate working equipment. 

Dentists have long working days and spend much of their time leaning over a patient, sitting in a chair, or entering patient information into the computer. All of these activities, if not managed properly, can cause problems with backache, repetitive strain, and posture. So, it is important to take preventative measures where possible to protect your employees from injury. A few ways you can achieve this are by: 

  • Providing training on workplace ergonomics and posture
  • Ensuring all equipment is suitable for use 
  • Maintaining all machinery and equipment to a safe and high standard 
  • Inspecting work environments regularly for any issues 
  • Providing regular machinery and equipment use training 
  • Keeping work areas clean and tidy at all times

Clean and Sanitize All Clinic Spaces 

All workplaces, especially those that serve the public, should be cleaned and sanitized regularly. This is particularly important as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. All dental offices should have cleaning procedures in place that ensure the complete sanitation of equipment, waiting areas, toilet facilities, and treatment rooms to ensure the health and safety of both patients and workers are protected.

Dental instruments must be thoroughly cleaned and sterilized before and after each use to limit the risk of contamination as much as possible. Waiting areas, toilet facilities, and reception areas should be cleaned and sanitized at regular intervals throughout the day. This helps reduce the risk of infection, the spread of disease, and ensures all areas accessible to the public are well-looked after. 

Your patients will judge the quality of your service simply by analyzing the level of cleanliness of your surgery – and they will do so within moments of entering. A clean and sanitized space will immediately put patients at ease – particularly those who have been significantly affected by the pandemic – and will show that you care about delivering an extremely high standard of care. 

Wear Personal Protective Equipment 

Although we have made it through the most difficult days of the pandemic, COVID-19 is still very much in our midst. So, it is imperative that those working in health and care services take precautionary measures to protect both themselves and their most vulnerable patients. This can be achieved through the wearing of personal protective equipment.  

Personal protective equipment or PPE includes gloves, aprons, eyewear, and masks. Most of these items are single-use and should be discarded after assessing each patient. By wearing personal protective equipment while providing dental care, you will provide your patients with the peace of mind that they are protected from catching any viruses whilst in your care. 

What’s more, you will protect yourself and your staff from catching any infections and diseases from your patients. So, everyone will stay healthy for longer, you will have reduced work absences, and you will be able to continue providing a high standard of care to your patients. 

Work as a Team 

Prioritizing health and safety as a dentist isn’t a one-person job – it requires effort from your whole team. Everyone needs to pull their weight in order to maintain the high standards expected in your dentist’s office. So, it’s important your staff are on board with any changes or new measures. 

We recommend that you meet with your team regularly (at the start or end of each week) to update them on any changing government regulations, new equipment deliveries, upcoming special events, and company-wide news announcements. Keeping your team connected and communicating effectively are both essential if you want everyone to work together towards a common goal. 

Final Words 

As you can see, there are many ways you can prioritize health and safety as a dentist. Of course, our list barely touches the service, but we hope it has covered the essentials so that you can protect and support your employees, improve your working environment, and continue to provide a high standard of care to your patients. 

About the Author

Kate Sheppard is a mum of two, who is passionate about sharing advice on topics related to healthcare and parenting.