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OSHA Guidelines for Dental Offices

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As a dentist, you are already well aware of the importance of personal health and safety. You convey this message to your patients regularly!

Did you know though that there are many dangers to you and your patients that can come from your own office? You may think that your regular practices are good enough, but how can you be sure?

29 CFR Part 1910 covers OSHA guidelines for dental offices, but it is daunting to read. Sowingo is here to help you understand what you need to do to be compliant.

The key components of a compliant dental practice are:

  • Understanding health and safety risks
  • Recognizing hazards and using appropriate controls
  • Establishing practices that align with general industry standards
  • Maintaining records and proof of training

Take a moment now and reflect if you feel confident that your business is OSHA compliant based on this list. If you’re feeling at all unprepared, then read on.

Health and Safety Risks To Consider In a Dental Practice

Many risks can be present at a dental practice. Although this list is not exhaustive, here are some examples of risks:

  • beryllium and methyl methacrylate exposure
  • bloodborne pathogens
  • disease and infections
  • poor ergonomics and repetitive motion injuries
  • mercury poisoning
  • silicosis (from silica dust)
  • poisoning from waste anesthetic gases
  • needlesticks
  • ionizing radiation
  • slips, trips, and falls

This list can seem very scary and daunting. But, there are many different ways to prevent serious injury or illness.

Recognizing, Controlling, and Preventing Hazards

OSHA and other regulatory agencies provide a number of ways to recognize hazards. Recognizing hazards alone is not sufficient, though. Employers are expected to also control and prevent hazards from affecting their employees.

Let’s take a look at the most common hazards seen in dental practices.

Bloodborne Pathogens and Infection Prevention

Dentists are at high risk for exposure to bloodborne pathogens. Transmission of these pathogens can occur in the following ways:

  • direct contact with blood or oral fluids
  • indirect contact with contaminated utensils or equipment
  • contact with splatter from an infected person coughing or talking
  • inhalation of airborne microorganisms

The use of personal protective equipment can prevent these transmissions.

Additionally, the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act of 2001 was a revision to the Bloodborne Pathogen standard. This change required that syringes and other sharps include built-in safety features. These safety features reduce the risk of blood or body fluid exposure from a needlestick injury.

The COVID pandemic in 2020 severely emphasized the need for infection prevention worldwide. Dental patients were exempted from the requirements to wear masks during procedures. As a result, it was critical for dental practitioners to minimize the risk of contracting COVID within their practices.

Ionizing Radiation

Radiation exposure from x-rays and radiographs represents only a minor contribution to a person’s total exposure. Dental radiographs account for 2.5% of the effective dose received from medical radiographs.

Still, prolonged radiation exposure can have negative effects. Thus the use of dosimetry badges to monitor the exposure is recommended. You should perform regular inspections of equipment. Utilizing radiation shielding can help to keep your employees and patients safe.

Global Harmonization System Standard

GHS is the Globally Harmonized System for Hazard Communication. As an international standard, GHS is a way of communicating chemical safety hazards.

GHS uses pictograms on labels to depict hazards. These pictograms include:

  • Health Hazard
  • Gas Cylinder (gases under pressure)
  • Flame Over Circle (oxidizers)
  • Flame (flammables and pyrophoric materials)
  • Corrosion (materials corrosive to skin or metals)
  • Environment (acute or chronic aquatic toxicity)
  • Exclamation Mark (irritant, skin sensitizer, or acute toxicity)
  • Exploding Bomb (explosives)
  • Skull and Crossbones (acute toxicity that is fatal or toxic)

It is important to educate your staff about these pictograms. Any hazardous material bearing these pictograms must include special handling instructions. These instructions will also include actions to take in the event of exposure.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

As the employer, you are responsible for providing PPE suitable for the tasks performed. Sowingo provides discounted PPE available in the marketplace. PPE may include:

  • aprons
  • masks
  • safety shoes or covers
  • gloves
  • goggles
  • face shields

This type of equipment will protect you and your employees from contamination from bodily fluids. It will also protect against the toxic chemicals that are necessary for some dental procedures.


100% clean outdoor air should be used whenever possible for ventilation. Nitrous oxide has short-term behavioural and long-term reproductive health effects. Repeated exposure to nitrous oxide can be harmful to you and your employees.

An annual inspection of your gas systems is recommended. By doing so, you can address potential leaks, improper gas flow, or aging equipment and parts. It is your responsibility as the employer to ensure adequate ventilation.

General Industry Standards to Meet OSHA Guidelines for Dental Offices

An OSHA inspection could cover many areas. They may look to check if you are properly handling your soiled waste and sharps. They may check your sterilization logs and receipts. They may also perform a general audit of your practice for hazards and determine if they are appropriately controlled.

OSHA expects you to train all employees when they’re hired. Annual refresher training sessions are also required, as well as after any task or procedure is modified.

The person who is training must be qualified and knowledgeable in the subject matter. Training records must be kept on file and available in the event of an inspection.

Minor injuries, such as first-aid, do not need reporting to OSHA. In the unfortunate event of a serious work-related injury, OSHA does require that all employers with more than 10 employees keep a record.

These records must be maintained at the dental practice for at least five years. At the start of each year, employers must post a summary of the injuries recorded the previous year.

Sowingo’s inventory management resources can help keep track of these necessary records. Gone are the days of loose file records that can be misplaced or lost.

How Can Sowingo Help You?

Being compliant with OSHA isn’t just a regulatory requirement. Having a better understanding of OSHA guidelines for dental offices will help you to keep your employees and patients safe.

Schedule a demo today to learn more about how Sowingo can help your practice to be a healthy and safe work environment. We’re even offering a 14-day trial just so you can see how much we can offer you. We will help you stay organized and remain compliant.

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