The prevention of COVID-19 in the dental office requires a unique approach. Dentists, hygienists and assistants work in close proximity to their patients and many procedures produce aerosols in the mouthwhich can increase the risk of transmission
from an undiagnosed COVID-19 patient. This is one of a series of blog posts about the multi-barrier infection control protocol we put in place at LUMIA DENTAL, because we believe just adding caution and a bit more PPE is just not enough.
Today we're discussing the use of UV-C light as a thorough and effective approach to disinfect surfaces and most importantly the air, in case any droplets containing the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) linger after patient treatment.
It is of the highest importance in general but especially in the current pandemic environment, to carefully and effectively sanitize and disinfect treatment rooms between one patient and the next. The complexity of that task and the fast pace in a dental office can easily lead to mistakes and people cutting corners to get the next patient into the chair as quickly as possible.
To avoid intentional or unintenional errors, a clearly defined protocol and staff training is key to ensure safety for patients and staff. While the infection measures are only as good as how they are executed, the available tools and equipment define the extent to which every corner and aspect of the treatment room can be sterilized. Well run dental offices have always carefully wiped down surfaces with disinfecting wipes and placed single-use plastic film (barriers) on all surfaces that could be potentially touched by the patient, provider or assistant, like the chair, suction devices, trays, light, protective glasses and more. Cuspidors (the little sink patients spit into) are notoriously dirty; modern offices have switched to suction funnels with a single-use cover that is freshly replaced for each patient.
The challenge with COVID-19 is the thoroughness of the process and airborne droplets:
- How to ensure every little nook and cranny is sanitized. What was good enough before the pandemic might not be sufficient now. There is so much equipment and small spaces that will likely be missed by a manual process.
- We know today that droplets in the air, exhaled by the patient or created during a procedure, actually pose the highest risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus.
- New York State authorities require dentists to wait 15 minutes between patients to ensure droplets fall to the ground. But what about the droplets that linger longer than 15 minutes, and do patients really want to walk into a treatment room where the floor might be covered in virus contaminated droplets?
- Air purifiers and filtration can filter and even disinfect airborne droplets but the turn over for the entire air volume in a room takes time and as a strategy alone, it isn't sufficient.
Some offices have started to use spray disinfectant but the ability to do this between every patient visit is limited and the lingering chemicals of such treatments carry their own health risks. Germicidal UV-C light provides a much better solution for this problem. UV-C is a special spectrum of UV light that is proven to kill pathogens such as viruses and even the toughest bacteria provided they emit sufficient power to cover the required space. UV-C disinfection works in minutes, thoroughly blasts the entire space and leaves no chemical residues.
Since the start of the pandemic the market has been flooded with UV-C gimmicks to sanitize phones, homes and even mini-portable units to clean surfaces on the go. The key to effective UV-C disinfection is to provide sufficient power and the distance of objects that need to be sanitized. LUMIA DENTAL relies on the SafeZone 850M9 from UVC Cleaning Systems Inc., a US based company that has long been a leading provider of UV-C devices for healthcare facilities and other environments.
The SafeZone 850M9 provides 855 Watts of cleaning power using nine (9) lamps operating at 95 Watts per lamp with a wavelength of 253.7 nanometers. UV-C lights at this level of power eliminates coronavirus, SARS-2, bacteria, and endospores in under 10 minutes for a standard size dental treatment room.
In addition to our already high cleaning standards, surfaces and the air in our treatment rooms are blasted with this light after every patient visit, no exceptions! In addition we are using a smaller, supplemental unit that is diagonally setup to cover any areas in the shadow of the hospital grade unit. This gives our patients and our staff assurance that we apply the highest standards of sanitation to keep them safe at LUMIA DENTAL.
After a few days of training and testing to ensure the UV-C light stays in the treated area and does not penetrate curtains or gaps, our staff has really fallen in love with our SafeZone 850M9 and affectionately named it "Betsy".
Come visit our office or book a free tele-consult and ask us about Betsy and other measures we have taken to minimize the risk of COVID-19 during your dental visit.