Ask Kara RDH: Why Isn’t Today’s RDH Addressing New Infection Control Guidelines?

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Why aren’t there any articles on Today’s RDH addressing new infection control guidelines for when hygienists return to work?

The short answer is because new infection control guidelines for post-pandemic hygiene don’t exist. (Please take note of the date this was published/posted)

Long answer: Right now, the CDC only has interim guidelines for infection control practices for seeing emergency patients. They have not come out with new infection control guidelines for when things are back to normal, and elective procedures (hygiene) can begin. To cover “the new normal” would just be speculation and not based on any real requirements that are in place or evidence-based.

As a publication, it would be irresponsible to make guesses on what future guidelines will be. What if we guessed wrong? Guessing without any reference hurts our credibility, but even worse, it could hurt somebody. What if someone took our advice and got hurt or was infected? Again, the CDC has only interim infection control guidelines for seeing emergency patients; to make any guesses is speculation and not evidence-based and would be irresponsible to publish.

I have given this response quite a bit lately, and most often, it’s followed with the question, “When will the CDC release new infection control guidelines for dental offices?” Only the CDC has the answer to that. I can’t even begin to take a guess. Again, for me to guess is irresponsible, as it is putting out information that may not be correct and isn’t based on fact.

I realize that the unknown is frightening, and not having any true answers makes it even worse. For some hygienists, it’s been an ongoing struggle to get your office to abide by the current infection control guidelines, let alone worry about if your doctor will be providing the proper PPE, whatever that may be, for you to treat patients safely when work resumes. I get that, and I empathize with the anxiety dental hygienists feel about the future. I really hope you can see where I’m coming from in not wanting to make guesses or put out speculative content.

That said, when the science is out, and new CDC recommendations are made, Today’s RDH will be reporting on it. And if the science shows that future PPE requirements are not adequate, Today’s RDH will be reporting on that as well. It’s crucial that we all stand up for safety.

If there hasn’t been a time to stand up for your safety and the safety of those you treat, when you return to work, now is that time. It’s also a time to reflect on how your office/boss handled the situation we are all in. Please don’t let the need for a paycheck allow you to put yourself in an unsafe position. Listen to your gut. I know that’s easier said than done, and it’s a strong ask. Your patients’ safety matters. Your safety matters. I just hope you all know that. Remember that OSHA requires your employer to provide a safe workplace and to provide appropriate PPE, again, whatever that may be.

Stay healthy and take care!

Links you might find helpful:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) interim infection control guidelines: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/dental-settings.html

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) interim enforcement response plan: https://www.osha.gov/memos/2020-04-13/interim-enforcement-response-plan-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) COVID-19 standards: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/standards.html

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidance on preparing workplaces for COVID-19: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf

American Dental Association statement on reopening: https://www.ada.org/en/press-room/news-releases/2020-archives/april/postponement-statement

American Dental Association mask and faces shield guidelines: https://success.ada.org/~/media/CPS/Files/COVID/ADA_Interim_Mask_and_Face_Shield_Guidelines.pdf

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Kara Vavrosky, RDHEP
Kara Vavrosky, RDHEP, is a Co-founder and the Chief Content Officer of Today’s RDH. Kara is a writer of popular articles that share practical advice and tips for hygienists, all in an informative and entertaining way. Beyond light-hearted content, Kara writes researched articles on topics in dental hygiene that educate hygienists on best practices and current protocols. A graduate of the Oregon Institute of Technology, Kara has a deep passion for spreading knowledge about the importance of oral health and how it relates to the entire body. Kara’s passion extends to helping other hygienists understand the latest protocols, products, and research — all with the goal to push the profession forward. Kara lives in Vancouver, Washington, with her fiancé Ben, and their rescued Chihuahua fur-babies, Bug & Ravioli. Beyond her love of dental hygiene, Kara enjoys spending time with her family, riding the Oregon dunes on her quads, and exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest and all it has to offer.