Written by: Kay Hickey, LDA, Product & Efficiency Consultant
Dental professionals should be aware of the invisible dangers which linger in the operatory. Aerosols created by high-speed handpieces, ultrasonic scalers, lasers, electrosurgery units, air polishers, and even prophy angles or air/water syringes can create bioaerosols. These aerosols contain blood and saliva which can carry fungi, bacteria, and viruses. As a licensed dental assistant, like most of you reading this, are well-aware of the risks involved with aerosols that are created during dental procedures. This is why we wear our personal protective equipment. What I didn’t know is these aerosols can hang out in the operatory for up to 30 minutes after the procedure has been completed!
According to an article by Kandis Garland, RDH, MS in Dimensions of Dental Hygiene magazine, the droplets from the aerosol evaporate into droplet nuclei, which can become airborne again as dust particles. With that said, we can clearly see the need to reduce these airborne pathogens found in dental aerosols. Routinely, upon the completion of a procedure, gloves and masks are removed as the clinicians chat with their patients and review post-op instructions. Once the patient is dismissed, they return to turn over the room. I can tell you – most don’t bother to put a mask back on and those nasty aerosols could still be hanging around, putting the clinician at risk for contracting an airborne/respiratory disease!
Like the HIV virus did in the 1980s, I feel that COVID-19, a dangerous airborne virus, will change the way we practice dentistry. The HIV virus prompted the CDC and OSHA to write new regulations and mandate the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) in dentistry. I was a young dental assistant back in the ‘80s, and now we are referred to as the “wet finger generation” of dental practitioners! I remember the first time I put on a mask, gloves, and safety glasses. It was a difficult transition for many clinicians, but in time we adapted and now it’s second nature. Just thinking about working without PPE sounds disgusting now! Here we are in 2020, and COVID-19 has brought great concern regarding the aerosols produced in dentistry. It’s time to consider what safety measures practices will provide their dental teams and patients.
According to Stephen Harrel, DDS, a professor at Baylor College of Dentistry, high-volume suction has been shown to significantly reduce airborne pathogens up to 98%. He goes on to state that high-volume suction is a “mandatory infection control precaution” when using ultrasonic and high-speed handpieces. Unfortunately, most hygienists use the saliva ejector, which does not have the capacity to contain aerosols and spatter, leaving potential harmful pathogens lurking in the treatment room. I can’t blame them – hygienists generally do not get an assistant. Trying to maneuver the HVE while scaling is not only cumbersome and difficult, it’s simply not practical. The same goes for the dentists that are having to perform emergency dental procedures currently by themselves. But Zirc Dental Products is here to lend a hand.
Zirc is an innovative company that manufactures dental products to help offices become happy, safe, and efficient. They have a line of seven different isolation devices! I have three specific suggestions that will get you through this difficult time and beyond! Mr. Thirsty® One-Step, the Relaxed Fit Insti-Dam®, and the Original Insti-Dam®. All these devices are latex-free and single-use to prevent cross-contamination, prevent allergic reactions, and eliminate most of the aerosols being emitted.
Mr. Thirsty® One-Step
Mr. Thirsty® One-Step offers hands-free isolation and high-volume suction! With a built-in bite block, tongue retraction, and airway and cheek protection, in addition to high-volume suction, it’s the perfect solution for a solo practitioner, whether it be the dentist during restorative procedures or the hygienist for sealant placement. It even comes fully assembled – simply take it out of the package and it’s ready to be placed in the HVE valve.
Relaxed-Fit and Original Insti-Dam®
Any dental dam will provide the maximum effectiveness of aerosol protection, but Zirc’s Insti-Dam® has added features that make them easier and more efficient to use than traditional dams. Both the Relaxed-Fit and Original Insti-Dam® are pre-framed and pre-punched with a single hole. The flexible frame allows the dam to be folded to the side for taking radiographs or providing suction for the patient. No more having to take the dam off to gain access to the oral cavity just to have to put it back on again. The flexible material of the Relaxed-Fit Insti-Dam® makes it perfect for posterior placement. Once placed, the material can be tightened on the frame to remove slack. The taught material of the Original Insti-Dam® is ideal for anterior teeth.
Dentists can take comfort knowing that they can provide efficient, quality, and safe dental care even in the absence of their assistant. Hygienists can feel confident that they’re working safely on their own. We will get through this unprecedented time. Like we have heard so often during the COVID-19 crisis – we are all in this together. Whether a dentist is trying to manage while working alone on their emergency patients, or practices have reopened with a full schedule of patients, Zirc has your back – and even an extra hand with Mr. Thirsty One-Step® and Insti-Dam®!