dental operatory

The Importance of Infection Preventions and Control (IPAC) Guidelines

We don’t know what we don’t know with regards to Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC). IPAC has changed the way we practice dentistry today. We have really three Regulatory bodies that we must comply with in regard to IPAC Guidelines, Public Health, RCDSO as well as CDHO. By using best practices and following all three guidelines provided by each regulatory body, we are able to keep patients, and dental professionals safe. By conducting an IPAC audit on a regular basis, we are able to see deficiencies and lapses that we can fix on our own. However, the keen eye of an IPAC specialist may be what you need to keep our dental practice at a high level of compliance. We as dental professionals may not know where to begin or whom we are to follow.

A crucial part of safe patient care is IPAC. The possible spread of blood-borne diseases and the impact of emerging, highly contagious respiratory and other illnesses have grown and created concerns in recent years. The IPAC strategies and protocols must be continually updated, monitored and evaluated. This is the responsibility of dentists and other health care professionals.

As dental professionals, our goal is to prevent or reduce the risk of transmission of microorganisms to health care providers, patients and clients. Referring to IPAC, evidence-based practices and procedures need to be applied consistently in a health care setting. This includes disinfecting, reprocessing and sterilizing our instruments and equipment between patients.

In July 2017, the first dental practice in Ontario was closed by Public Health Ontario (PHO) due to an IPAC lapse. This kind of IPAC audit had not yet been encountered in Dental offices, and everyone was caught off guard, even the regulatory bodies.


Looking for more information on IPAC (Infection Control and Prevention) Resources? Here's a link to our extensive list of PDF checklists and informational articles! 


The Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (RCDSO) and the College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario (CDHO) were shocked that regulated health professionals had been delivering treatments with instruments that may not have been reprocessed effectively. Consequently, letters were sent to patients informing them that they should be tested for specific bloodborne pathogens. The letters caused stress and fear to the patients and their families, and the risk of dental visits was all over the media.

Not being IPAC compliant can have serious consequences that can negatively affect your reputation as well as your practice(s) and finances.

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The Value of an Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) Audit

Meeting the highest IPAC Standards can be done by accomplishing a thorough IPAC audit. An IPAC audit is a thorough assessment of your entire practice from the reception-office admin area, into your reprocessing area, into your operatories, your lab and into your common staff area. This can be done as a team with an appointed IPAC representative or having an external IPAC specialist. By meeting these high IPAC standards, it will support your dental practice with the intent to prevent and/or reduce the risk of transmitting or acquiring a healthcare associated infection. As a result, your patients, yourself and your colleagues are protected from preventable infections by applying best practices in your daily dental practice routines.

To ensure that patient safety standards are followed and that best practices are applied, all dental professionals are strongly encouraged to commence audits of their IPAC policies and procedures in their dental practices. An audit should evaluate all core components of IPAC while focusing on strategies to reduce the risk of transmission; this will include the reprocessing of instruments. Continued communication amongst the staff and time will help aid in keeping the standards high for IPAC compliance. With the variety of resources available to help aid in the self-evaluation audits and checklists, it is hard for a busy dental practice to evaluate their own policies and procedures on a level of IPAC Compliance/Best Practices.

An external IPAC specialist, with expertise and certification in IPAC, is highly recommended when conducting an IPAC audit. They have the necessary knowledge, tools and resources to identify and resolve deficiencies and/or lapses within the dental practice. An external IPAC specialist is a neutral person that can provide a fair and honest IPAC audit to your entire dental practice. There are no biases. For the dental practice to be at the highest level of IPAC compliance, the external IPAC specialist assesses to provide guidance and recommendations to rectify possible IPAC lapses.

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Presented By
Nicol Lagerwerf CDAII/DTC

To Sum it Up

Clients, patients, and dental professionals all want to be safe at the dental practice. Keeping up with the high standards of IPAC and best practices will help keep your practice free from transmission and IPAC lapses.

Dental professionals have access to research and best practice information related to safety but sometimes that isn’t the best avenue to follow in order to keep your practice at the highest standards of IPAC. As a team, work together, communicate, and take your time to thoroughly assess your office. However, biases and mistakes can still be made.

Taking the time and paying the fees for an IPAC specialist to come aboard to help with your IPAC audit may be the best decision you’ll ever make. Their unbiased mindset, knowledge and tools all benefit your practice in the end. Don’t forget having peace of mind at the end of the day that your practice is safe for everyone will allow you to sleep better at night.






Michelle Aubé (Simmonds) RDH, maxill Dental Hygiene Educator

Michelle is a Dental Hygiene Speaker, Consultant and Educator with over 21 years of experience as a RDH and 4 years as a CDA. She has written dental hygiene articles for CDHA’s OH Canada professional publication and continues to practice clinically and teaches both clinical dental hygiene and practice management at Fanshawe College and the University of Western Ontario. She has served on the Discipline Committee at Algonquin College and held the position of a CDHO Quality Assurance Assessor for 7 years.