After you read this book and increase your understanding of dentistry basics, you will be able to find a dentist with whom you can communicate and from whom you can get the best treatment for a reasonable cost.
Also consider the attitude of the office staff. Observe how well those who work in the office get along. Is everyone willing to help you, or are staff members busy performing too many tasks? A staff that sees fewer patients per hour has more time to devote to each patient than does the staff in an overly busy office.
Are Health and Safety Guidelines Followed?
Office cleanliness is extremely important in these days of AIDS awareness. Due to the nature of dental treatment, many fear that AIDS may be transmitted during treatment. Proper sterilization techniques will help minimize the risk of disease transmission. Soaking instruments in a cold chemical solution is not an adequate means of destroying germs. There are several viable methods of ensuring that instruments are sterile. Use of disposable instruments is the most preferred method. The use of autoclaves, chemical vapor sterilizers, and dry heat sterilizers are others.
Autoclaves employ pressurized steam at a prescribed temperature. Similar to a pressure cooker, water is heated to boiling, steam is created, and the elevated temperature sterilizes the instruments. Chemical vapor sterilizers use a mixture of chemicals, including formaldehyde, alcohol, and acetone along with water. At high temperatures, the chemicals vaporize and sterilize the instruments that are placed in a chamber. Dry heat sterilizers utilize an electrical heating element capable of heating the chamber to appropriate temperatures and sterilizing the instruments. The autoclave, chemical vapor, and dry heat sterilizers are all appropriate tools for sterilization.
Sterilization of equipment is not, however, the only issue in dental office safety. The American Dental Association (ADA), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have all issued guidelines for infection control in the dental office. It is up to you, however, to determine if the office in which you are being treated is following all the guidelines.
Once you have chosen a dentist and made your first visit, observe the instruments, the trays, the dental chair on which you are sitting, and the x-ray and other equipment. There is less chance of contamination when disposable instruments are used. Notice whether the tray on which the instruments are placed is covered by a disposable cover. If not, chances are the tray is either sprayed with a disinfectant or wiped, which may not thoroughly clean it of any blood and residue. If the instruments on the tray are not disposable, notice whether they are in a sterilized bag, or whether an assistant brought them out of a drawer. The sterilized bag is preferred.
The drill should either be disposable or come from a sterile bag. Burs used to drill the teeth, dispensers of cotton pellets, or any materials used on another patient should never be placed on the same tray with your instruments. Notice whether the assistant handles instruments with gloves, and whether the gloves are changed before a new patient's instruments are handled. The dentist must also wear gloves as well as a mask. He or she should not write on charts or answer the phone while wearing gloves. Handling an object may contaminate both the gloves as well as the object; it is another way of spreading disease.