Let’s start with the short answer to this question. Dentists wear masks and gloves to keep you, their other patients, all the members of their oral health team, and themselves, safe. The longer answer to this question involves an understanding of infection control, which we’ll look at now:
There are a lot of things that go into infection control. Your dentist employs a number of them constantly. From regular hand-washing and the use of alcohol-based sanitizers, to the complete sterilization of dental tools between patients, your dental team works hard to reduce the spread of infection. Part of these efforts is the use of barrier protection – namely, gloves, face masks, and other protective clothing.
All of the things listed above fall under the category of personal protective equipment (PPE). The goal of this equipment is to act as a barrier between the healthcare provider, the patient, and any potential contaminants. PPE serves a dual role. The masks and gloves protect the dental team from any contact with blood, saliva, mucous, and other bodily fluids. These fluids can contain viruses and bacteria that can spread infection; many illnesses can only be spread by direct contact between bodily fluids.
PPE protects patients, too. The gloves your dentist and team use are sterile, which limits the chances that you’ll contract an illness from them. This is especially important for immunocompromised individuals. Sterile gloves are used for each patient and are always discarded after use.
Your dentist will wear PPE whether or not you display symptoms of an illness – infection control requires the assumption that every patient is infected. You must let your dentist know if you have an illness before your visit so you and they can plan appropriately. The amount of PPE your dentist will wear can vary significantly depending on your health conditions. People with highly infectious or dangerous diseases would be treated by medical professionals wearing significantly more PPE than with patients who seem healthy.
Standard PPE equipment doesn’t protect your dentist from every type of infection. You’ve probably heard that most masks don’t protect adequately from airborne infections – they only act as barriers for fluids. That’s why there’s a growing need in the current environment for specialized PPE like N95 masks.
As you can see, your oral health team has always taken a number of precautions to ensure your health and safety. Feel free to read some of our other blog posts on the subject; there’s too much information to cover in just one post. As always, if you have any questions, get in touch with us. Feeling sick before a scheduled dental appointment? Let us know. Our professional dentists in Winnipeg are here to help you.