Members of the dental team providing direct patient care will be exposed to respiratory and oral secretions and should receive annual flu vaccination every year, ideally in the autumn before flu season starts. This is the single best way to protect against catching and spreading flu and should be promoted to staff and eligible patients. (Influenza patients can be contagious the day before their flu symptoms arise and up to 5 days after symptoms started). Clear messages about influenza can be displayed in key areas of the setting during flu season.
Dental staff should exclude themselves from work if they have influenza like symptoms while they have ILI e.g. a runny nose and/or still sneezing or coughing. (Dental staff are a potential source of infection to patients)
Pregnant women, those with long term health conditions and the elderly should be discouraged from attending the dental surgery for routine dental care during the influenza season.
Whilst flu is circulating there should be a screening of patients before (e.g. by telephone or text message) or as people arrive at the dental surgery to confirm if it is appropriate they attend the surgery.
- Patients should be discouraged from attending for routine dental treatment if they have symptoms of influenza like illness (coughing, sneezing, fever, runny nose) as they are a potential source of infection to staff and other patients.
- If patients are symptomatic on arrival at the surgery for a routine appointment they should be advised to return at another date and after explaining risks appointment rebooked unless it is an emergency.
Should emergency dental treatment be required whilst a patient has symptoms of ILI or confirmed flu, risk of transmission can be reduced and include:
- Consider minimal intervention treatments where possible.
- Reducing or avoiding aerosol generation with water and suction equipment.
- Providing treatment in a setting where full-face protection equipment is available. (Treatment needs to be provided making prudent use of minimal intervention and protective equipment as is most appropriate to the clinical need). A fluid repellent surgical mask is required in addition to face visor. This and gloves must be changed between cases.
- Ideally the treatment should be provided by staff who have been vaccinated more than 10 days before.
- Offering the appointment at the end of the day.
- Attention to Hand Hygiene before and after treatment.
- Attention to cleaning and disinfection of all surfaces exposed to the patient including door handles, work surfaces, treatment couch, shared equipment and environment.
- Attention to additional routine cleaning in the dental surgery including door handles using detergent and warm water as a minimum during flu season.