Skip to main content

Surface decontamination in the dental surgery

By January 13, 2022January 19th, 2022Blog
Metasys disinfectants in use

It’s no secret that surface decontamination is key to protecting patients and staff in the dental practice. But with so many products on the market, it can be difficult to know which ones to use and how to use them properly.

In this blog post, we’ll look specifically at a number of key areas of surface decontamination, which when treated with the right product(s), at the right intervals, with the right contact time will offer you one of the most effective ways to mitigate the potential spread of infection through surface decontamination in your practice.

So, how do you ensure that the risk of infection is minimised and the highest standards of disinfection achieved?

Well, as you’d expect with as wide a ranging and complex subject as infection control, unfortunately, there isn’t a single, simple answer!

There are many areas and workflows within the dental practice which require infection control processes to be regularly and comprehensively employed, from the reprocessing of dental instruments, to all the surfaces in clinical areas, including the dental chair and diagnostic equipment, to the basic hand hygiene of each and every person entering your dental environment.

Cleaning or disinfection?

Before we get our teeth into how to keep those pesky bugs at bay, let’s get one, often confused, fact put to bed: the difference between cleaning and disinfection…

Although often terms used in unison, they are not the same thing.

Cleaning is the removal of dirt and debris, usually in the presence of a detergent. In a dental environment this could well include bodily fluids released as the result of dental treatments, like blood, tissue, tooth and bone fragments or pus.

Disinfection is the inactivation or killing of microorganisms on a surface, using a disinfectant agent which is known to have antimicrobial properties.

Disinfection can only occur on a clean surface, so it is vital that the cleaning step takes place prior to disinfection (although, there are, of course, combination products available, which combine both steps).

So, now that’s sorted, let’s concentrate on disinfection. Surface disinfection to be precise.

We will leave instrument reprocessing and decontamination for another day.


Decontamination and disinfection of surfaces in a dental practice

Even by focussing just on surface decontamination within a dental practice, there are still several different areas to consider, all of which should be addressed individually and specifically.

In this blog we’ll take a look at:

·  Surface decontamination in the dental surgery

·  Decontamination of the dental chair

·  Hand Hygiene for patients, visitors and staff

Whichever area you’re looking at, we’ve got bags of experience in at Blueprint Dental, so we’re always on hand (excuse the pun!) to help you out with which product you need for which application, to strike that important balance between efficacy and material compatibility.

A little more on that too…

Efficacy v Material Compatability 

There needs to be a balance between the ability of the disinfectant to inactivate micro-organisms and its effect on the environment around it. It needs to be safe to use in the presence of humans, not leave potentially toxic residues around after use and leave the surfaces and equipment on which it is used unharmed.

Are you familiar with disinfectant rotation?

Disinfectant rotation is an important part of infection control in dental practices. It is the crucial process of regularly switching between different types of disinfectants in order to prevent the development of microbial resistance. Many disinfectant ranges will offer two alternatives, which can be safely rotated, often with colour coded labelling for clarity and ease of use.

Quaternary Ammonium compounds (often referred to as ‘Quats’) are effective disinfectants widely used as part of a rotational infection control plan in a dental setting.  

Disinfection of dental surfaces

So, now we know that infection control of surfaces is a critical activity in every dental practice and it’s important to make sure that all surfaces in the practice are clean and decontaminated regularly with products which are compatible with the surface and to rotate, if necessary, to reduce the risk of microbial resistance.

But, what about the different types of surface disinfectants available? 

Surface disinfectants can be split broadly into non-alcohol based and alcohol-based agents.

The method of applying the disinfectant usually correlates with the size of the area, with larger areas tending to be disinfected using spray-applied agents and smaller areas more likely to be treated with wipes.

Again material compatibility is of prime importance here.

Non-alcohol based disinfectants have excellent material compatibility and can be used is a wide variety of surfaces in the practice, but especially lend themselves to the leather or synthetic upholstery of the dental chair, hoses and handles on the treatment centre and any areas composed of plexi-glass or acrylic, like the dental light.

Dental chairs and treatment centres are a classic example here and are discussed in their own section below.

Non-alcoholic disinfectants have a short action time and when applied properly to a surface will continue to provide a long-lasting effect against the re-establishment of airborne bacteria and viruses.


Alcohol-based surface disinfectants are also widely available, cost-effective and have a broad spectrum of microbiological action. Again they can be sprayed directly onto the surface or applied using an impregnated wipe. Just make sure the material is compatible with alcohol before going ahead!

Is your dental chair decontaminated properly?

The dental chair is often the main touch point for patients during their visit, presenting the opportunity both to contaminate and be contaminated.

Disinfecting the chair between patients is a sure way of protecting your patients and staff, reducing the risk of cross-contamination, but with the possibility of many patients taking a seat in the chair each day, it is also important to ensure the upholstery and any other parts which are disinfected are not damaged by harsh chemicals constantly being used on their surfaces.

A non-alcohol based disinfectant is ideal here and provides excellent material compatibility which, as well as disinfecting, helps to maximise the longevity of the chair’s upholstery.

Hand Hygiene in the dental practice

Hand hygiene is one of the most important ways to protect yourself and your patients

Our hands are constantly coming into contact with micro-organisms, some of which have pathogenic capabilities.

Many scientific studies prove that hands are THE primary transmission path for pathogens.

Hand disinfection is therefore considered crucial for the prevention of nosocomial infections. In Europe alone, up to 5 million patients in hospitals and other healthcare facilities are infected annually with dangerous pathogens. A major reason for this is inadequate or even lack of hand hygiene. Comprehensive hand hygiene can reduce the rate of “acquired” infections by up to 40%.

But proper hand hygiene should also help to prevent skin problems and maintain the natural protective function of the skin. So, be sure to take this into consideration when selecting hand hygiene products for your practice.

As a result hand hygiene products often include a range of products including hand lotions and creams, as well as disinfectants themselves to ensure the natural balance of the skin in maintained. Alternatively, hand disinfectants may achieve this by incorporating additional soothing or lubricating ingredients into their formulation.

The method of dispensing may differ according to the location in the practice and the user of the hand hygiene products. For example, product in a public area of the practice intended primarily for patients and non-clinical staff may be a wall dispenser with automatic dosing, whereas a more specialist surgical hand wash with a broader range of efficacy for hand and forearm preparation prior to surgery would be in an area only accessible to clinical staff and bottle-based.

So, we have seen that regular and robust decontamination processes using the right product for the right surface should be right at the heart of every dental surgery’s infection prevention policy and procedures. When best practices are adopted the risk of cross-contamination will be minimised and the safety of patients, staff and visitors alike maximised.

We’d love to help you ensure you have the highest possible standards of hygiene in your practice and we’re pretty confident that we can sort you out with the right surface disinfection product for each and every area in your practice

You can get in touch to discuss further using the form below….


  • Take a moment to review our privacy policy.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.