Objective: To investigate changes in Ontario dentists' infection control practices between 1994 and 1995.
Methods: Data from responses of 4003 dentists to a 1994 survey and responses of 987 dentists to a 1995 survey were compared by using descriptive statistics from all respondents and McNemar's test for paired data from those participating in both surveys.
Results: Response rates were 70% (1994) and 62% (1995). There were improvements in reports of routine use of gloves (92% to 94%); masks (73% to 79%); and protective eyewear (83% to 84%); vaccination for hepatitis B virus (HBV) or naturally acquired immunity of dentists (93% to 94%); HBV vaccination of clinical staff (64% to 77%); heat sterilization of handpieces (83% to 95%); and no extra precautions for patients with HIV (13% to 48%). Pairwise comparison of data for 788 dentists participating in both surveys showed statistically significant increases in reports of all practices except use of protective eyewear. The 1995 follow-up data also indicated low compliance with handwashing (74% before treating each patient; 62% after removing gloves); flushing water lines after treating each patient (54%); and using postexposure protocol for needlesticks and cuts (36%).
Conclusions: Dentists' reports of compliance with recommended infection control practices and universal precautions against HBV and HIV infection increased between 1994 and 1995, but most dentists apparently have not adopted universal precautions. More education is needed to promote universal precautions, HBV vaccination for clinical staff, handwashing, and postexposure protocol.