Finding a Safe Dental Practice

Patient safety must be an essential component of high quality oral health care, but how do you know that your dentist is providing an environment that decreases your risk of injury or harm during the delivery of that care?

It is important to look for “Red flags”. The more red flags you notice, the higher the likelihood that the provider in question isn’t really the best you could hope to find.

  • Ask about the dentist’s sterilization procedures to ensure they are up to state, Osha, and ADA codes. http://www.ada.org/sections/professionalResources/pdfs/cdc_sterilization.pdf
  • Does the practice have a written infection-control program to prevent or reduce the risk of disease transmission?
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to ensure the dentist follows sound business practices and has positive references, even if he or she does not have BBB accreditation.
  • Check Credentials and History- You’ll want to investigate the dentist’s credentials, such as their degree and licenses. You’ll also want to check and see if the dentist you’re looking at has ever been sued. If they have, what was it for and what is the current situation of the case? What was the verdict? You certainly don’t want someone who has been sued multiple times and especially if they were found guilty.

                         1. Look up the state medical board website for the state in which the

                             doctor practices. Enter the name and city to search for his/her license.

                          2. Check to see if there are any disciplinary or legal actions against

                               him/her. If there are, click the link to view the public documents.

                               If the documents aren’t available online, click an information link

                               to inquire about how they can be viewed.

  • Ask local pharmacists or family physicians for recommendations. Dentists are in constant contact with these professions, and most can at the very least, let you which dentists to avoid.

Be wary of

  • Any sign that the facility is not kept clean and sanitary. The dentist must make sure that his sterilization equipment is in good working order and that proper disinfecting sprays and/or wipes are available to clean hard surfaces after each patient. In other words, grocery store purchased Lysol spray and Clorox wipes are not allowed!
  • Dentists who delegate almost everything to their assistants. There are some dentists that let assistants do more than what they are licensed to. 

Dental Assistant and Dental Hygienist 

There is a big difference between the duties of a dental assistant and a dental hygienist and job descriptions can vary from state to state, practice-to-practice, based on a dentist’s individual preferences. It is important to know the limitations of each position. In addition to the job descriptions listed there are other certifications that may obtained. You can check your specific state to see exact job functions. There are some dentists that let assistants do more than what they are licensed to. 

Dental Assistant

The term “certified dental assistant” refers to someone who has met the requirements to become board certified by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). This title has nationwide breadth and is recognized or required by 29 states for practicing dental assistants. Registered dental assistants are registered through state agencies, and their registration is only viable in that state. Know the limitations of dental assistants. You can check your specific state to see exact job functions. 

  • Works closely with patients before, during and after procedures
  • Assists the dentist during a variety of treatment procedures
  • Takes and develops x-rays
  • Prepares and sterilizes instruments and equipment
  • Takes impressions of patients’ teeth for study casts (models of teeth)
  • Teaches patients appropriate oral hygiene strategies
  • Performs office management

Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists are licensed by each state to provide dental hygiene care and patient education. Almost all states require that dental hygienists be graduates of commission-accredited dental hygiene education programs to be eligible for state licensure. And, almost all states require candidates for licensure to obtain a passing score on the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (a comprehensive written examination) in addition to passing the state-authorized licensure examination. The state or regional examination tests candidates’ clinical dental hygiene skills as well as their knowledge of dental hygiene and related subjects. Since each state has its own specific regulations regarding their responsibilities, the range of services performed by hygienists varies from state to state. Upon receipt of their license, dental hygienists may use “R.D.H.” after their names to signify recognition by the state that they are a Registered Dental Hygienist. 

In addition to some of the same duties as dental assistants, a dental hygienist often performs the following types of tasks:

  • Collecting information about the patient’s oral and medical health history
  • Removing calculus, stains and plaque (hard and soft deposits) from all surfaces of the teeth
  • Making molds of patients’ teeth used for evaluating treatment
  • Charting patients’ dental conditions for the dentist
  • Applying fluorides and decay preventatives
  • Administering local anesthetics
  • Removing sutures and dressings
  You deserve a safe atmosphere where you feel comfortable enough to get the dental care that you have probably been putting off!

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