You must make a good diagnosis to treat a problem so it goes away and
does not return. Why treat a sore on the face by cleaning it when the sore
is from pus draining from a tooth with an abscess? You need to know the
cause of the sore to give the best kind of treatment.
After you make the diagnosis, you must decide whether you or a more
experienced dental worker should provide the treatment.
Know your limits. Do only
what you know how to do.
In the following pages, we describe the kinds of problems you as a health
worker may see, and we also give the treatment for each problem.
Before you touch the inside of anyone’s mouth, learn how to keep
clean. The next 6 pages explain how you can prevent infections by washing
your hands, wearing gloves, and cleaning and sterilizing your instruments.
Germs in the mouth
The mouth is a natural home for germs. They usually do not cause problems
because the body is used to them. In fact, many germs are helpful. For
example, when we eat, some germs break down chewed food into parts
small enough for the body to use.
There are problems when the number of these ordinary germs increases
greatly, or when strange, harmful germs come into a healthy body from
outside. Fever and swelling follow. It is an infection.
When we regularly clean the mouth, the number of germs stays normal.
You can teach others to clean teeth and gums, but cleaning is each person’s
However, dental workers have one serious responsibility. You must not
spread germs from a sick person to a healthy person. You must do
everything you can to make sure your instruments are clean. An instrument
with blood on it can spread hepatitis (a serious liver disease) or HIV, which