It may not be as obviously fraught with danger as something like construction or law enforcement, but working in a dental practice carries a number of serious health concerns that dental staff should be aware of and protected against.

Here, we’ll outline the five biggest health hazards in dental practices, along with some advice on addressing them.

What are the hazards in dental practices?

The following are the five standout examples of hazards in dental practices and how to help guard your people against them:

1. Radiation

First on our list of hazards in a dental practice is the radiation given off by the x-ray machines that dentists use to take scans of patients’ mouths.

According to HSE’s ionising radiation regulations, anyone using radiography equipment must be fully trained, and in situations where potential exposures can exceed 1mSv, personal dosimeters should be used to measure exposure levels.

However, in the case of dental practices, radiation is highly unlikely to ever get near this figure. Instead, arrangements such as controlled areas and contingency plans should all be put in place as part of a fully thought-out practice safety policy, while the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) state that a risk assessment should be conducted to make sure the practice is fully IRR17 compliant.

2. Sharp objects

happy woman sitting in dental chair

Physical hazards in dentistry are rife, with dental work full of Exposure Prone Procedures (EPPs) in which dentists and dental nurses hold or come into close proximity with sharp objects such as drills and needles, as well as pieces of enamel or metal from teeth and fillings respectively. Because many EPPs happen inside patients’ mouths, these carry the very small risk of infection from conditions like hepatitis and HIV, or viruses like Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) and Covid-19.

Dental practice owners can protect their staff from these situations this by making sure to follow the Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations 2013, which outlines the legalities for:

  • Safe use and disposal of sharps
  • Training requirements
  • Procedures for responding to an injury by sharp objects

3. Harmful substances

It’s also wise to consider the chemical hazards in dentistry. Potentially dangerous substances used in dental practices include:

  • Sodium hypochlorite: as an irrigant in root canal procedures
  • Dental amalgam: a combination of metal alloy and mercury found in fillings
  • And nitrous oxide: a gas sometimes used for sedation purposes

As these are all substances potentially damaging to public and staff wellbeing, a good place to start is by conducting a thorough COSHH assessment, in line with HSE’s regulations around Control of Substances Hazardous to Health.

4. Skeletal and muscle problems

Amongst all the hazards in dental practices, this is the one that perhaps goes under the radar the most. Dental work often involves sitting or standing in the same place, hunched over patients in the same position for long periods of time. This can lead to problems with the lower and upper back, along with the neck and sometimes even the shoulders.

Thankfully there are many ways dental staff can mitigate the chances of these. They can range from something as seemingly innocuous as good lighting (so staff don’t need to lean in so closely to see what’s happening during a procedure), to magnification and suitable seating designed to keep their spine in its natural shape.

5. Dental aerosols

The last of our occupational hazards in dentistry is also the ones that’s closest to our hearts here at VODEX.

Aerosols are given off in dental practices during aerosol generating procedures (AGPs) like drilling teeth and ultrasonic scaling. These AGPs give off spatter, some of which can be controlled, but much of which is projected up into the air and into the breathing zones of dental staff and patients alike. Not only can this spatter contain some of the potentially dangerous chemicals used in dental procedures that we’ve mentioned above, it can also contain viruses like Covid-19.

Covid-19, of course, turned the world upside down for almost every industry imaginable. In the dental world, practices were instructed to adhere to new fallow time requirements, and surgeries even today must work to government mandated time gaps between patients while the air is refreshed within dental settings. This has created a challenge for dentists, who must meet demand for appointments from an ever-growing population, while keeping everyone safe from the dangers of dental aerosols.

Thankfully, there is an answer to this conundrum. A recently published and peer-reviewed study conducted by researchers at Newcastle University found that our very own DentalAIR UVC® AGP Filtration System is capable of both reducing fallow time and effectively reducing the dispersal of aerosols with local exhaust ventilation performed at the source of these aerosols during AGPs.

In fact, by positioning the nozzle 10cm below the chin of a patient during a procedure, the DentalAIR® is able to reduce spatter from AGPs by up to 99%!

In other words, the DentalAIR® is quite possibly THE best way to keep your people and patients safe from one of the main hazards in dental practices.

Get your DentalAIR® today!

As one of the very best ways to protect against the most significant occupational hazards in dentistry, we believe that every practice should have a DentalAIR UVC® AGP Filtration System.

Read the blogs below to find out more about keeping your people safe from AGPs, or get in touch with us to see what the DentalAIR® could do for your dental practice.


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