Infection control practices in public dental care services: findings from one South African Province
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Infection control practices which increase the risk of bloodborne virus transmission with associated dental practice in one South African province were studied. All 24 state dental clinics were observed for adequate provision to carry out good infection prevention and control (IPC) practice, 75 staff including dentists, nurses and dental assistants were interviewed to assess IPC knowledge and 23 dental procedures were observed. Significant findings were the difference between knowledge and practice, despite adequate provisions for safe infection control practice. The lack of protective eye wear during a dental procedure, not washing hands between patients, not disassembling an item prior to disinfection or sterilization, and not using a sterile drill for each patient were identified. A rapid method for detection of occult blood was used as a marker for inadequate IPC practice. Contaminated dental items of equipment just prior to patient use in 25% of equipment tested and 37% of surfaces and surrounding
areas in the dental clinics and units were recorded. This study concludes that, despite provision for safe dental practice available in state dental clincs, there was a lack of knowledge application in clinical practice. The risk of blood-borne virus transmission in a population with high human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevalence cannot be ignored.