Investing in every team member, including the dental assistants, can minimize the risk of incidents, reduce turnover, improve patient care, increase patient retention and generate overall greater efficiencies.
Adhering to oral healthcare regulations, including federal and state infection control standards and guidelines, is an ongoing effort, and there’s no room for complacency with patient safety at stake. When you operate a multi-site group dental practice, reputation management becomes even more important. An infection control breach in one location can have widespread consequences for your practice and your patients. However, there are many steps you can take to minimize your risk.
When it comes to infection control, dental assistants fill a critical role. They often are tasked with preparing and sterilizing instruments and equipment, and may even serve as infection control coordinators. Dental assistants are frequently the closest eyes and ears to the day-to-day operations – which means they have the opportunity to stop a potential hazard before it happens.
One of the biggest challenges with hiring, educating and training this group is that dental assisting requirements and delegable duties vary from state to state. When operating dental practices in multiple states, this challenge is amplified – making it tough to standardize the education, experience and training requirements for dental assistants.
Taking a state-specific approach may serve your practice and your employees best in the long run. Yet, there are some practices you can follow to streamline your protocol.
1. Understand dental assisting requirements
Become familiar with the dental assisting requirements across locations by visiting the Dental Assisting National Board, Inc.’s (DANB’s) free search-by-state map, which includes dental assisting job titles, requirements, and allowable and prohibited duties. Make sure to check this resource along with the state dental board websites regularly, as rules and regulations frequently change.
2. Encourage national certification by DANB
Since each state has different dental assisting requirements, encouraging or requiring all dental assistants to also earn national certification can help multistate practices streamline their office protocol and create a national baseline for hiring decisions. DANB is recognized by the American Dental Association as the national certification board for dental assistants. Currently, 38 states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Air Force recognize or require DANB exams, and there are more than 35,000 DANB certificants nationwide, with over 73,000 dental assistants passing DANB’s Infection Control (ICE) exam since 1997.
Beyond proven knowledge in infection control, radiation safety and chairside assisting, DANB Certified Dental Assistants (CDAs) can benefit your practice in numerous other ways, including lower turnover, increased patient trust and greater efficiency.
3. Keep infection control a top priority
As part of earning DANB’s CDA certification, dental assistants must pass DANB’s ICE exam, which measures knowledge of important Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. Dental assistants who pass DANB’s ICE exam also receive a certificate of knowledge-based competency, which can be displayed in the office in an area visible to patients. Check DANB’s free online verification tool to verify whether new hires or currently employed dental auxiliaries have passed any national exams or hold DANB certification.
4. Centralize continuing education and staff training
Providing quality patient care requires an ongoing commitment to staff training and education – especially when it comes to infection control. Assign a staff member to oversee compliance with company-wide mandatory continuing education and keep records in an accessible place for easy review and retrieval.
Incorporate engaging and convenient training tools for your staff, such as the DALE Foundation’s online review courses and study aids. The DALE Foundation, an approved ADA CERP and AGD PACE provider, offers e-learning products on a variety of topics, including infection control.
The DALE Foundation’s DANB ICE Review is an interactive, self-paced course that provides an overview of important infection control topics, including how to adhere to standards set by OSHA and guidelines established by the CDC and the Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP). This course is worth 12 CDE credits upon successful completion.
For group practices, one of the benefits of incorporating these products into your training approach includes being able to manage the courses for the entire team through one account. The courses can either be purchased by each individual or by the practice manager. If courses are purchased by the practice manager, they can be assigned and progress can be tracked across employees, from one central account.
5. Engage and incentivize dental assistants
As part of the commitment to staff training and education, engage dental assistants by providing meaningful goals that make them feel successful while benefiting the bottom line. If you are encouraging all assistants across dental practices or practice sites to take the DANB ICE exam or earn certification, provide incentives that make the exam and certification process easier. For example, offer study materials or sign up for group testing so the dental assistants can take their exams at the same time – which can foster a sense of camaraderie and support.
On the dental team, every member plays a critical role. When it comes to the dental assistant’s position, investing in resources and standardizing practices for this essential team member will serve your business long into the future.
At DANB and the DALE Foundation, public protection is at the heart of what we do – and the resources we provide can help you make it a core part of your practice, too. Take advantage of our resources and underscore your office’s commitment to patient safety.
The DALE Foundation Course Catalog:
The DALE Foundation CDE Requirements by State:
DANB State Requirements Map:
DANB Dentist/Employer Resources:
DANB-Issued Credential Verification