If you’ve ever set foot inside a dental practice, chances are you’ve noticed a few things that set the dental office staff apart from the patients. We’re not just talking about the fact that they are performing your exam - they are also dressed differently than patients. So, what’s the deal with the garb? Why does your dental staff wear certain articles of clothing and protective gear?
It’s natural to wonder if your dentist or hygienist is wearing a mask when they do your cleaning because they think you have bad breath. But don’t be insecure! The reason dental staff wear those masks is to stop the spread of germs - and not just your germs either. With the average person having up to 700 distinct types of bacteria in their mouth at any given time, breathing directly at someone’s open mouth is an easy way for your dentist to get you sick, or vice versa!
Another reason protecting your mouth is so important? A recent article on CNN.com revealed that a higher-than-average number of dentists were diagnosed with an illness called Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, a very serious and usually fatal lung disease. While it is not yet known why this disease appeared so frequently among dentists, theories suggest it could have something to do with the particles dentists may breathe during dental procedures. Either way, it’s still in the best interest of both the patient and the dentist for the dentist to wear a mask.
You have probably seen plenty of emergency room dramas on TV where the doctors are all in scrubs - but why wear them at a dental practice? Well, scrubs are useful for many different reasons. First of all, they’re comfortable. Medical staff are constantly standing up, moving around, reaching across and over people, and often lifting heavy objects like air tanks and sometimes even people. So naturally, they want to wear something that feels comfortable. Scrubs also prevent medical staff from staining their own regular clothing with dental chemicals, bleach or even blood. They also present a crisp, easy-to-identify uniform for patients to go to if they need help and eliminate the need for a "dress code" for dental offices to enforce.
According to legend (or, as some call it, "Wikipedia") dentists and doctors began wearing white lab coats because in the 1900s trained medical professionals wanted to set themselves apart from "witch doctors" and "snake oil salesmen," so they adopted the white lab coat as a way to distinguish themselves from the quacks. The white lab coat also has the benefit of big pockets, and unlike colored fabrics, they can be bleached without damaging the fabric.
Rubber gloves are another safety tool we use in the dental practice. Rubber gloves help protect the patient’s mouth from germs when the dentist or assistant’s hands are at work. They also help protect the dental professional’s hands from any open wounds or bacteria that may be in the patient’s mouth.
You may notice that sometimes your dentist wears a lamp on his head or special glasses with a light on the front called a "loup." These devices help shine a light directly into the patient’s mouth for a better view, and they’re especially useful when doing delicate work or surgery. Most likely when a dentist wears one of these lights, the patient will be provided a pair of sunglasses to protect their eyes from the light.
Got any questions about other gear we sport around Dr. Abelar’s office? Just ask! Need to set up an appointment? Give us a call at 858-866-9692.