Tautvydas Karitonas from Inivos: How dentists can ensure their practice is ‘COVID-secure’
From Monday 8th June, dental practices across the UK will resume seeing patients. With thousands of check-ups and routine procedures cancelled during lockdown, many patients are keen to get their appointments booked as soon as possible.
But the government has called for the dental industry to ensure surgeries are ‘COVID-secure’ before reopening their doors – leaving practice managers searching for solutions that can keep patients and staff protected.
Tautvydas Karitonas, Head of Research and Development at Inivos considers what a COVID-secure dental practice looks like and how managers can ensure they achieve this.
Tautvydas explains: “The BMJ has suggested that as many as 80% of COVID cases are asymptomatic. This, plus the delay between contracting the virus and the onset of symptoms even for those who experience them, means the virus has been able to spread quickly between seemingly healthy members of the public.
“For this reason, a reactive approach to decontaminating – only beginning a deep clean or contracting an infection response service when a recent patient is discovered to have tested positive for coronavirus – is not enough.
“To break the chain of infection and reassure patients, dental practices must thoroughly decontaminate all patient areas and treatment rooms according to a proactive schedule.
“This is particularly essential for decontaminating treatment areas after aerosol generating procedures (AGPS). Of course, in a dental practice, most procedures are AGPS – meaning a robust decontamination schedule is needed between patients.
“Large, busy practices should also consider a professional Workplace Infection Prevention Assessment to identify and mitigate the risk factors in their environment, and understand what needs to be done to make the space COVID-secure.”
Manual cleaning alone is not enough
He continued: “While hygiene professionals in any kind of clinical practice – from dental surgeries to operating theatres – work tirelessly to ensure the environment is safe and clean, the new threat of COVID-19 means that ‘manual cleaning’ alone (cleaning by hand) is not enough.
“Manual cleaning can leave behind pathogenic micro-organisms. More rigorous measures are required to ensure the risk of viral contamination and spread is kept to an absolute minimum.
“Hospitals are increasingly turning to innovations such as hydrogen peroxide vapour (HPV) and ultraviolet-C (UV-C) light to ensure that decontamination is effective and validated. More than a third of NHS Trusts regularly use Inivos’ HPV or UV-C technology to decontaminate their facilities.
“Dentists can also consider using these approaches. UV-C technology is particularly suitable for dental practice. The relatively short action time – with Inivos’ Ultra-V Connect able to decontaminate a space in as little as eight to fifteen minutes – means decontamination can be completed between patients, which is particularly ideal when performing AGPs.”
Have a PPE contingency plan
“Appropriate personal protective equipment is an essential part of a COVID-secure dental practice. This should mean thoroughly decontaminating all reusable PPE between patients and disposing of single-use items such as gowns and masks after one wear.
“However, concerns about the volume of PPE available across the UK healthcare system mean that dental practices need to consider their contingency plan now in case stocks run low in the coming weeks. This should include sourcing additional suppliers, as well as developing procedures to decontaminate single-use items.
“Although decontaminating single-use PPE is not a long-term alternative to the best practice of wearing once and safely disposing, a recent trial at University Hospital Southampton has concluded that it is a viable and effective contingency.
“Practice managers should begin considering such processes now to avoid being caught out in future.”
Tautvydas Karitonas is Head of Research and Development for Inivos (https://www.inivos.com). He is a leading expert in harnessing decontamination technology to eliminate viruses, bacteria and other contaminants from hospitals, care homes and public spaces.
In his role as Head of Research & Development, Tautvydas has led research and development into numerous pioneering solutions for virus outbreaks, including isolation pods, automated hydrogen peroxide vapour (HPV) and ultraviolet-C (UV-C) systems and decontamination wipes.
Founded in 2007, Inivos is a leading developer and provider of decontamination technology and has worked with hundreds of hospitals around the world to eliminate viruses, bacteria and other contaminants from hospitals, public spaces and businesses, eliminating any opportunity for a patient to acquire infection while in hospital.