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Human health and safety including infection control is essential to every dental practice. The well being of dental practitioners, patients and the surrounding community is very important. These areas are in constant flux. New products, equipment and processes seemingly appear on a daily basis. In addition, governmental agencies and professional associations regularly release new rules, regulations and recommendations.

Dental practices must comply with certain requirements, but the methods involved often seem complex, time consuming and relatively expensive.

However, there really is no alternative to an effective workplace health and safety program. Each dental practice must make the commitment to establish and maintain a safe work and treatment environment.

In December of 2003, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an extensive review and set of recommendations regarding infection control in dental environments. This document as well as others will serve as “guiding lights” for this course. The guidelines update previous CDC recommendations, incorporating relevant infection control measures, and discuss a number of concerns not previously addressed in dentistry.

Every dental practice should have a copy of the 2003 CDC infection control guidelines for dentistry. Every person having a dental license received a copy. Electronic copies also are available at One effective way dental practices can improve and maintain compliant health and safety programs is through the appointment of a safety coordinator (compliance officer). The CDC indicates that a knowledgeable infection control coordinator (a member of the practice team) or a person willing to be trained should be given the responsibility for coordinating the program. The educated dental assistant should be readily capable of performing the tasks required.


Founded in 1984 and formally incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1985, OSAP is a unique group of dental practitioners, allied healthcare workers, industry representatives, and other interested persons with a collective mission to promote infection control and related science-based health and safety policies and practices. OSAP supports this commitment to the dental workers and the public through quality education and information dissemination.

OSAP also maintains the OSAP Foundation, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt educational foundation dedicated to education, research, service, and policy development to promote safety and the control of infectious diseases in dental healthcare settings worldwide.


After completing this course, the dental professional should be able to:

• List and describe microorganisms present in the oral cavity and body fluids.
• Describe how disease can be transmitted within dental environments.
• Identify methods and materials that will best assure sterilization of reusable dental instruments and equipment.
• Identify methods and materials that will best protect or decontaminate clinical contact surfaces.
• Identify methods and materials that will best protect both staff and patients from disease transmission in dental environments.
• List and describe important elements of an effective dental practice health and safety program.
• Demonstrate an ability to locate and use correctly information concerning practice health and safety.
• Describe the importance of microbiology in relation to infection control.
• Describe the natural defenses of the human body against infection.
• Identify the three modes of infectious disease transmission in the dental office and give examples of each.
• List and identify the ways that pathogens may enter the body (portals of entry).
• Identify infectious diseases that are relevant to  and give their modes of transmission.
• List diseases for which immunizations are available.
• Describe the importance of immunizations and their role in infection control in the dental office.
• Explain the application and importance of standard precautions.
• Describe the purpose of personal protective equipment and the various types of PPE available
• Explain how to determine when and what type of personal protective equipment to use.
• State the role of handwashing in infection control procedures and describe when handwashing should take place.
• Differentiate between routine handwashing and surgical hand hygiene.
• Differentiate between a guidance agency and a regulatory agency.
• Name various guidance agencies and regulatory agencies that affect the field of dentistry and describe the role each plays in infection control procedures in the dental office.
• Identify the steps a dental office must follow in order to comply with OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard.
• Describe the purpose of the hazardous chemical list.
• Demonstrate the ability to read and use a Material Safety Data Sheet.
• Prepare the appropriate product label when using the Material Safety Data Sheet for a particular product.
• Explain an employer’s responsibilities regarding the hepatitis B vaccination.
• Define the term “exposure incident.”
• Describe first aid procedures after an exposure incident.
• State the purpose of engineering controls and identify various engineering controls used in the dental office.
• State the purpose of work practice controls and identify various work practice controls used in the dental office.
• Explain the employer’s responsibilities regarding contaminated waste.
• Define medical waste and give examples.
• Explain the purpose and scope of employee training regarding the Hazard Communication Standard and the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.
• Differentiate between immersion, disinfection and environmental surface disinfection.
• Describe the purpose and use of barriers in the dental office.
• Compare the use of barriers with the processes of cleaning and disinfection.
• Describe the procedures to verify effective sterilization, as well as other methods used to monitor sterilization processes.
• Differentiate between critical, semi-critical and non-critical items in the dental office and give examples of each.
• Describe steps to minimize the risk for cross-contamination from dental unit water lines.
• Explain the procedures used for processing hand instruments; including holding, cleaning, packaging, sterilizing and storing.
• Describe infection control procedures for radiographic procedures.
• Describe infection control procedures for the dental laboratory.
• Describe to the dental patient the importance of infection control.


The ADAA has an obligation to disseminate knowledge in the field of dentistry.  Sponsorship of a continuing education program by the ADAA does not necessarily imply endorsement of a particular philosophy, product or technique.

Credits earned upon completion of the course may be used to meet DANB’s Recertification Requirements.

This course has been produced in part by a grant from the American Dental Assistants Association Foundation.

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