A dental assistant’s vital role in infection control

dental chair and equipment in an exam room

Keeping patients safe is the No. 1 priority for the entire dental team — particularly through ensuring infection control compliance.

To spotlight this important objective, September is Dental Infection Control Awareness Month, as designated by the Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP).

Many dental assistants have a crucial hand in this critical task not just this month, but year-round. Read on to learn more about assistants’ role in breaking the chain of infection, as well as DANB and the DALE Foundation’s available resources to support their success in this essential area.

On the front lines

Infection control compliance protects both patients and staff members. Understanding how to control the spread of infectious disease is critical for all members of the dental team — and especially for dental assistants. This is because assistants are often on the front lines of infection control compliance.

By the numbers, DANB’s most recent survey showed over 80% of dental assistants are responsible for infection control-related tasks. Such duties include instrument processing and sterilization — one of the most important jobs in the dental office. Dental assistants also may serve as the dental office’s infection control coordinator.

“Every day is infection control day,” agrees Maggie D., a dental assistant.

Maintaining infection control compliance is no small responsibility and requires preparation and knowledge. Therefore, it’s crucial that assistants of all experience levels continually pursue as much education about this topic as possible.

“Dental assistants who stay up to date with infection control protocols minimize the risk of the spread of infection and disease to their patients and to themselves,” agrees Eloise R., CDA, CPFDA, CDPMA, who teaches infection control-compliance courses for dental assistants. “That is certainly a win-win for everybody.”

Sharon D., CDA, CPFDA, CRFDA, CDPMA, is a retired dental assistant educator, outreach trainer to promote the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, and published author of articles on a variety of dental topics, including infection control. She believes DANB and the DALE Foundation’s resources are effective in helping dental healthcare personnel to expand their infection control knowledge.

In fact, Sharon regularly urges everyone she encounters within the dental community to consider taking DANB’s Infection Control (ICE) exam, which can be taken on its own but is also part of DANB’s CDA, COA, and NELDA certifications. Passing the ICE exam also meets some of the eligibility requirements for the CDIPC and DISIPC certifications.

“There’s no reason the whole office can’t take DANB’s ICE exam,” Sharon says. “Passing the exam shows that they understand infection control more, and I recommend it.”

The OSAP-DALE Foundation Dental Infection Prevention and Control Certificate can help you further your infection control knowledge and demonstrate your commitment to patient safety. The DALE Foundation also offers several online infection control resources that can be used to prepare for DANB exams or as a way to earn CE. These resources are developed by experts in the field. To learn more, visit the DALE Foundation’s course catalog.