Keeping the environmental and housekeeping surfaces of a dental office clean and disinfected — walls, floors, sinks and more — requires planning, documentation, staff training, good communication and implementation.
“Regular training for staff is key to a clean and safe environment,” said Michael Koehne, D.D.S., owner of Amber Dental, PC, in Wheaton, Illinois. “Staff should be trained regularly in the proper use of surface cleaners and disinfectants and updated when products change, since the cleaning process may be different across various surfaces, materials and products. Employers must also maintain material safety data sheets for the cleaning products used in the workplace as part of the Hazard Communication Standard.”
Amber Dental, he adds, follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s infection control recommendations for dentistry. Visit the CDC website for more information.
Dr. Koehne says dentist owners should post checklists and instructions for products as a quick reference and have written office cleaning protocols to encourage staff adherence and to keep the dental office clean and safe.
Many dental practice owners choose to hire an outside company to handle regular cleaning of hard surfaces like floors, cabinetry, countertops, sinks, handles, switches and more, Dr. Koehne said.
“Amber Dental uses a weekly cleaning service,” Dr. Koehne said. “We also have a contract for weekly rug and floor mat cleaning service due to the harsh midwestern weather.”
The upsides to hiring an outside cleaning service, he said, include not having to add additional staff, staff time or involvement for the major tasks involved in environmental cleaning; not having to purchase any specialized cleaning equipment; and scheduling the cleaning crew to work after hours at the practice’s convenience.
Dr. Koehne says his office staff follows protocols for environmental cleaning between cleaning service visits and uses checklists and schedules to perform routine tasks, including trash disposal; wiping counters, sinks, door handles, light switches and other surfaces; and vacuuming. The staff self-monitors and performs some tasks as needed, such as keeping the staff lunchroom, refrigerator and lockers tidy. Staff also makes restroom checks part of the daily routine.
“We feel the appearance of the restroom reflects the office’s attitude towards cleanliness and patient care,” Dr. Koehne said. “We keep the restrooms clean and fully stocked with toilet paper, soap, paper towels and hygiene supplies. The restroom is often the first stop for patients who wish to brush their teeth before their appointment or for patients who might feel nervous.”
There are a few downsides to hiring an outside cleaning service, he added, include having strangers in the office after hours.
“We have had instances of the cleaning crew setting off the security alarm, not setting the alarm and leaving the doors unlocked overnight,” he said. “You may also need to relinquish some closet or storage space for the crew to store equipment and supplies. And occasionally we have had some issues with damage to walls and paint from cleaning equipment or careless/rough treatment.”
The key to minimizing the downsides is to negotiate the specific services you want in the contract with the cleaning company, he said.
“We are currently on our 12th cleaning service in 17 years,” Dr. Koehne said. “In our earlier years we used three or four cleaning services in as many months. But we learned that having a very clear, concise, detailed contract and good communications are key to a successful working relationship. Do not leave any detail open to interpretation.”
At Amber Dental, Dr. Koehne and his staff will work together on the list for the contract, outlining CDC recommendations and specific instructions on where to clean, when to clean, what to clean with and how often to clean. Their contract specifies that general office cleaning — including floors, office counters, bathrooms, foyer, reception, consulting room, private office and sinks — be performed once per week.
Dr. Koehne also notes that a contract should specify what days and times the crew will be on the premises and outline different frequencies for tasks like dusting window blinds, plant care, and washing windows. It should also specify what EPA registered and approved cleaning products should be used. He and his office manager finalize the contract with the cleaning company and the office manager serves as the main contact for the contracted company.
“Also, we can say with confidence that cleaning companies do not want to touch or have anything to do with our dental equipment,” Dr. Koehne added. “They do not want the liability and I as the dentist owner do not want anyone touching my expensive and sensitive dental equipment.”
Miguel Zabludovsky, founder and owner of Slate NYC, a nationwide cleaning company that provides environmental cleaning and housekeeping services to dental practices of all sizes offices across the U.S., said his dentist customers all develop a unique schedule and specific instructions based on their specific needs.
“Every practice has its own frequency,” Mr. Zabludovsky said. “Smaller practices are cleaned less often because they get less traffic. Larger practices that see more patients are cleaned more often because as patient volume increases, from the waiting room area carpet to the front desk and bathrooms. Busy practices also have less free time for staff to do some of the cleaning tasks themselves.”
Mr. Zabludovsky said Slate dental practice customers should expect a full cleaning and disinfecting of all surfaces, including floors, counters, handles, chairs, keyboards and bathrooms, as well as dusting of medical equipment and vacuuming throughout patient and staff areas. “Cleaning dental practices is not more complicated than cleaning an office or retail space; it just requires the right expertise, he said. “Companies with experience cleaning other dental or medical practices are best positioned for success because they have already learned the specific needs of dental practices.”
When shopping for a cleaning company, Mr. Zabludovsky said, the dentist owner should know what hourly rate is being quoted. “If the price quoted is a fixed rate, ask how many hours of cleaning they are including for that and come up with the hourly rate. Depending on your location, frequency of visits and volume, you should be paying somewhere between $40-$60 per hour, not including supplies.”
Mr. Zabludovsky said it is also critical to make sure that the cleaning company you hire is properly insured because you could be responsible if something happens to their employee at your space. The different types of insurance that cleaning companies should have include general liability, workers compensation, unemployment, disability and paid family leave, depending on the state. Another thing to check is that the cleaning company workers are correctly classified as employees and not as independent contractors so that they are covered by all these insurance policies.
He said that Slate “is spinning up and managing cleaning crews anywhere in the US. Because of that range of coverage, our first touchpoint with a potential client is by video chat. Clients can schedule a virtual walk through where they show us their space and tell us their preferences and priorities. Once we start working together, we communicate through Slack, SMS and email.”
He notes that his company has a quality assurance team that holds regular video calls with clients and proactively asks them for weekly feedback about their service and any special requestions or priorities for the week ahead.