(NC) Oral healthcare workers have a duty to their clients to provide and maintain an environment that is safe and consistent with legal, professional and ethical standards. If you see something at your dental office which you’re uncomfortable with, it’s your right as a client to ask or speak up.

That said, it’s important to look for the following things when visiting your practice to know if it’s safe.

  1. General cleanliness of the office. The floors and surfaces should look clean. Dental hygienists must follow certain guidelines to properly clean and disinfect all the surfaces in a room that may have been contaminated or touched during treatment so that germs aren’t coming in contact with clients.
  2. Maintenance of the treatment area. The treatment area should be in good repair. That means there should be no tears or rips in the furniture, no carpet in the treatment area and limited items on the countertops.
  3. Protective clothing. This is essential for both the client and dental hygienist. During treatment, your dental hygienist must wear protective eyewear, a mask, gloves and an overgown or smock. Patients should also be given protective eyewear and a bib.
    Anytime your dental hygienist leaves the treatment room, all personal protective equipment should be removed so that germs can’t travel outside the room and put others at risk. Before leaving the room, your dental hygienist should wash their hands or use hand sanitizer after removing their gloves, and again once they return before putting on new protective clothing.
  4. Dental hygiene instruments. All instruments that come in contact with your mouth must be properly sterilized. Sterilized items should always be wrapped in acetate or a pouch and remain sealed until ready for use. Your dental hygienist should open up a new package in front of you and show you the chemical indicators, which are strips used to confirm whether an instrument is now sterile and safe to be used on you.

Since these precautions are put in place to protect you, dental hygienists are more than happy to address any of your concerns, so feel free to speak up. You can always contact the College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario and speak to practice advisors who are ready to answer your questions.