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How can you tell if you're safe at a dentist's office?
Updated: 4/5/2013 4:59:55 PM
 

How can you tell if your safe at a dentist

Going to the dentist is something that all people need to do in order to keep their teeth healthy. Dental health professionals are the only individuals who are qualified to remove plaque and take care of cavities, gum disease and all of the other issues that can arise in the mouth. Of course, not all dentists are created equal, and some may be better than others. For example, recently, an oral surgeon in Oklahoma was found to have poor sterilization practices that may have caused his patients to be exposed to HIV or hepatitis C. 

According to ABC News, the dentist used a rusty set of instruments on patients with known infections, and may have exposed up to 7,000 individuals to infections and viruses. All of this was discovered after one of the dentist's patients was diagnosed with HIV even though the patient had no risk factors that would lead him to contract the virus other than going to the dentist. In light of this, people should arm themselves with knowledge of things to look out for while at the dentist to make sure that they are getting care from a safe and qualified individual

Look at his gloves - CNN spoke to Mark Burhenne, D.D.S., a practicing family and cosmetic dentist of 25 years and founder of AskTheDentist.com, who said that people should check how their dentist puts gloves on. For example, gloves should be put on from a dispenser, not an unsterilized countertop. Also, the dentist should only touch sterile tools and a patient's mouth while wearing gloves - if he or she touches anything else, new gloves need to be put on. 

Examine the instruments - According to Burhenne, the dentist should be unwrapping a sealed bag of instruments in front of each patient. If the instruments are in a sealed bag, that means they have been sterilized by a machine. Also, once the instruments are taken out of a bag,  they should only be placed on a sterilized tray, not on a countertop or anywhere else where germs may be able to get to them before they are put inside a patient's mouth. 

Check for hints in the office - If a dentist's front office isn't clean, that's not a good sign. Individuals should check to make sure that the office is tidy and uncluttered. Furthermore, while carpets can't be sterilized, linoleum floors can. If a dentist has these floors, it shows that he or she is truly committed to cleanliness. 

Along with looking out for signs that a dentist keeps a sterile work environment, there are other things people should look for to make sure they are being cared for by the right dentist. For example, WebMD recommends people check to see if their dentist attends conferences or workshops so he or she can continue his or her education. Also, does he or she offer a range of anesthesia options for patients who have to undergo a painful procedure or have strong anxiety that may keep them from being comfortable while getting their teeth cleaned? 

It's important for people to feel comfortable with their dentist and trust him or her. People should be visiting the dentist twice a year, and if they do not trust or like their dentist, they may be less likely to schedule their biannual appointments, which could lead to them experiencing some serious dental issues, such as gum disease and gingivitis. Most dentists are smart, safe professionals who take all of the proper steps when it comes to keeping the office clean and sterilizing all of their tools, so people shouldn't be worried, but should still arm themselves with information. 

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