From March 2020 through August 2020, weekly visits to dental offices in the United States dropped by more than 33 percent, all due to the pandemic. Worse, many dental offices around the country were forced to close entirely during this period.
While there has been a rebound in the past year, many dental offices report they still are not seeing the number of patients they saw in 2019.
Dental offices may be more impacted by the pandemic than other medical facilities because, for one key reason, there are so many more “touchable” surfaces in dental offices — surfaces touched by technicians, doctors, and patients while being treated. If these surfaces are contaminated with COVID or a host of other germs and bacteria, touching them can potentially spread disease.
To address this concern, dental offices around the country have dramatically increased their disinfecting protocols. However, to ensure their offices are disinfected properly, it is crucially important that dental office administrators be aware of something receiving far too little attention: quat binding. When quat binding sets in, the effectiveness of the disinfect can drop negatively.
Understanding Quat Binding
Most leading manufacturers of disinfectants use quaternary ammonium chloride, better known as quats, in their disinfectants. This ingredient can kill (eliminate) a wide range of pathogens, which will be listed on the disinfectant’s label and referred to as “kill claims.” Further, if the disinfectant is on the EPA’s List-N, it means the disinfectant can also kill the pathogen that causes COVID-19.
However, here is the problem. As the disinfectant is used, the quats can be absorbed into cleaning cloths, wipes, and mop heads. Not only are quats being absorbed into wipes, cloths, and mops, they are being pulled into these items.
Quats have positively charged ions; the disinfectant applicators (cleaning cloths, etc.) have negatively charged ions. This means they attract each other. When this happens, the overall effectiveness of the disinfectant can be reduced.
The quat binding process has been demonstrated in a remarkably simple test. A cleaning cloth was soaked in a disinfectant solution for about 10 minutes. Quat levels in the solution, measured before and after the cloth’s submersion, found that the quat level had been cut in half after only 10 minutes.
This is a dramatic drop, so dramatic that if that cloth is used for disinfecting, it can risk patient health — just when dental offices are doing everything, they can to reassure patients that their offices are clean, safe, and healthy.
How Dental Offices Can Address Quat Binding
What can dental offices do to minimize, if not eliminate, the adverse effects of quat binding? Consider the following:
- First, be aware of the problem. We must ensure we are disinfecting correctly and effectively for everyone’s health and safety. Due to COVID, we cannot risk giving the illusion of effective disinfecting.
- Use higher concentrations of disinfectant than called for, especially if several surfaces and fixtures are to be cleaned.
- If using cleaning cloths and spray bottles, do not spray the disinfectant on the cleaning cloth; spray the disinfectant directly on the surface to be cleaned, allow adequate dwell time for the product to work (five to ten minutes), and then wipe.
- Consider switching to alternative disinfectant methods.
One alternative disinfecting option is the use of air-purifying systems.
Traditional air-purifying systems have internal fans that pull air through filters. The filters remove dust, soils, and contaminants from the air and circulate cleaner air back into the room.
However, according to Jenna Riffer with LuxDisinfect Air Purifiers, a leading manufacturer of this technology, advanced disinfecting air purifiers go further.
“At least one advanced air purifying system has HEPA filters capable of capturing particulate matter with a diameter of fewer than 2.5 micrometers with a 99.99% disinfecting efficiency.”
Just how small is 2.5 micrometers? That’s about 3% the diameter of a human hair.
Riffer adds, “Along with being able to capture the pathogen that causes COVID-19, these systems can filter out other harmful particulates found in indoor air.”
Further, Riffer says some systems use ULC technology. This technology effectively eliminates (kills) bacteria, germs, and pathogens found in indoor air.
As we have heard many times before, COVID has changed everything. Effectively eliminating pathogens and eliminating the negative impacts of quat biding is something we must do now. Further, this is essential information all dental offices need to know today and going forward. Dental offices will likely never be cleaned and disinfected the same in a post-COVID era — a good thing for dental offices, their staff, and their patients.
Robert Kravitz is president of AlturaSolutions Communications, a twenty-year-old Influencer and Thought Leadership marketing agency serving a variety of industries. He can be reached at email@example.com.