So, after 10 years of avoidance I finally cowered into a dental office last week to deal with the problems I knew I had. Today I started to observe more closely the hygienic practices of my new dentist. A few things are of concern to me.
1. Does not wear protective eyewear (Just his regular glasses)
2. Does not seem to change masks in between patients......at all in fact. I was in the office for around 1 hour today and he used the same mask throughout.
3. Did not seem to wash his hands in between patients. Now, he always used new gloves, but he definitely did not wash his hands in the room I was in.
4. Does not wear a disposable gown. He just wears his normal clothes with a white labcoat.
Am I in any danger here? Should I start looking for a new dentist. Really a bit worried because I had a tooth extracted and there was a lot of blood on my part. Am I at risk for anything like hep c/b or hiv?
I am a bit surprised that he doesn't wash his hands in between patients, but the truth is, if he is wearing a new pair of gloves for each patient, it seems to me to be a moot point.
A dentist is not required to wear a disposable lab coat, and even those who do, do not throw it out after each patient...they use it for the entire day. The doctor should wear protective glasses, but that is for HIS benefit, not yours. There is no reason to change a mask for every patient.
As long as the doctor autoclaves his instruments and cleans his equipment between patients, you are just fine.
I don't think you have anything to be concerned about (at all). When you first mentioned that he didn't wash his hands, it put up a red flag but then I realized that he is wearing gloves so his hands stay clean in between patients. I think it's easy to feel alarmed when you're already hesitant to go to the dentist so try to relax...
I experienced the same thing with a new dentist. I went for a consultation & didn't really have time to check everything out before they took me back for xrays. They did the full exam & I really liked the dentist. When they sat me up to talk to the dentist I looked around the office & saw the floor was filthy, there was a dental mirror & other items in the floor. I almost freaked out. I made a comment to the dentist that I hoped that wasn't where the things had been they had used in my mouth. The dentist just shrugged & said no.
I immediately wondered if anything in the office had been sterilized. I never went back. I couldn't get the image out of my head.
Washing hands in-between changing gloves is a must, since the act of removing the used, contaminated gloves will contaminate the dentist's hands, and thus the new pair of gloves. Also, gloves are not perfect and a certain percent do have minute holes in them.
What is standard practice depends on the state. In CA, these laws are very strict, including protective eyewear and changing masks between patients. It may be that the dentist is doing so in a separate room designed for this purpose. If not, the fact that they appeared to take their own safety (eyewear/masks/gloves) lightly would concern me as a patient, since this attitude may carry over into other things you don't see. For example, are they spore-testing their autoclaves weekly to be sure that instruments are actually being sterilized? Are the instruments bagged when you are seated at the chair and then opened? Are all handles on the equipment (chairs, lights, x-rays, switches of any kind) covered with protective plastic and changed between each patient? If not, then this may place patients in danger. And what about their water lines? Are they being flushed for 2 minutes between patients as required? Are the hand-pieces being heat sterilized?
I would suggest checking with your local dental society and/or state board of dental examiners (consumer affairs) to find out if these practices are acceptable in your state). You are absolutely right to observe and raise these questions.