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Therese Vannier, RDA/OMSA By Therese Vannier, RDA/OMSA • January 3, 2018

The Secret Life of Spatter (And How to Combat It)


Every day in every dental practice, spatter is generated from dental tools and gadgets, including high-speed handpieces, ultrasonic scalers, Cavitrons, dental lasers and air-water syringes. This large-particle spew of water, saliva, blood, microorganisms, and OPIM (other potentially infectious materials, or in layman’s terms: Ewwww!) poses real hazards for patients and clinicians.

With the arrival of flu season, it’s particularly important to protect yourself from all this spatter. The spray of saliva and blood not only lands on the floor and nearby surfaces, it’s commonly seen on face shields, protective eyewear, and on patients and staff. That’s why every conscientious member of the team gears up before getting down to business.

The spatter generated from these instruments also contains nasty aerosols consisting of particles less than 10 microns in diameter. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, aerosol mist can remain suspended in the air for an extended period of time and be inhaled.

To prevent airborne pathogens from infecting us, we must take advantage of every available weapon. Dental health care workers can avoid contact with spatter and spray with the use of face shields, surgical masks, gowns, and other personal protective equipment (PPE). Rubber dams in conjunction with a high-volume evacuator (HVE) are also effective at spatter reduction.

Infection control is critical at all times, but extra precautions should be taken during flu season. As you review the best practices in your office, consider implementing an Isolite system. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, using Isolite can help protect the health of dental clinicians by releasing significantly less spatter into the environment than using an HVE alone. It’s one more way to arm yourself against the secret life of spatter.

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