By Lee Slaton, Vice President of Healthcare; Smart Training

As we work with clinicians in the field, we often need to remind them (and ourselves) that the lines between exposure control and infection control get blurry.

Hold that thought as you consider the difference between patient protection and clinician protection.

These two ideas go hand-in-hand.

To review, exposure control encompasses procedures and PPE utilized to protect health care workers in a practice.

Infection control refers to the procedures and protections utilized to protect the patients.

I’m frequently asked if lab jackets (or coverings) have to be changed between each patient. At my class at TDA Meeting this year, I gave my standard Clinton-esque answer: it depends!

From an OSHA standpoint, lab jackets are there to protect the health care worker—i.e. to provide exposure control. From this perspective, lab jackets or coverings don’t have to be changed between patients; they can be worn through several patients—even several days—unless they’re visibly soiled.

But a recent article in the New York Times sheds a different light on the topic. Titled “Why Your Doctor’s White Coat Can Be a Threat to Your Health,” it’s concerned with hospital—not dental practice—settings. There’s also a big percentage difference between the number of dental patients that are sick and hospital patients that are sick.

Having said that, there are points in the reviewed studies that apply to the dental field, making the article deserving of a close reading—notably the amount of germs carried on lab jackets (and shirts and ties) and the habits of health care workers (regarding how long they go between changing lab jackets).

OSHA standards notwithstanding, this is why I invite your attention to the article. I would love to hear your feedback.

You can write Lee Slaton at LeeSlaton@SmartTraining.com. Smart Training is in the business of making dental practices safe for staff and patients. If you’re not sure how your practice stacks up in complying with the latest CDC infection-control and OSHA exposure-control protocols, you can contact Smart Training. TDA members receive discounts when they mention “TDA Perks.”