Germaphobe fears visits to the dentist’s chair

As a registered nurse and a patient who has had many dental procedures, I cringe every time I get into a dentist’s chair. The reason is the overhead light — the one that the hygienist or dentist can adjust and lower. The hygienists and dentists wear gloves, but the gloves protect them, not the patient.

Dear Annie: As a registered nurse and a patient who has had many dental procedures, I cringe every time I get into a dentist’s chair.

The reason is the overhead light — the one that the hygienist or dentist can adjust and lower. The hygienists and dentists wear gloves, but the gloves protect them, not the patient.

They put their gloved hands in patients’ mouths and then reach up and adjust the light as needed, time after time. Their gloved hands transfer bacteria from a patient’s saliva (and sometimes blood) to the light fixture. Then the next patient gets in the chair, and the procedure is repeated.

I don’t see how they can avoid transferring harmful bacteria and viruses from one patient to another unless they clean the light fixture off between every patient. I hope I’m wrong, but I have never seen or heard of this being done.

I learned sterile procedure in nursing school. If they teach sterile procedure to hygienists and dentists, they don’t seem to be using it in my dentist’s office. — Nervous Patient

Dear Nervous: Relax. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, working with the American Dental Association, has developed recommendations that say all surfaces, including the dental chair, dental light, instrument tray, drawer handles and countertops, should be cleaned and decontaminated. Some offices may cover this equipment with protective covers, which are replaced after each patient. Non-disposable items like dental instruments are cleaned and sterilized between patients, while disposable dental instruments and needles are tossed along with disposable wear, such as gloves.

It’s quite likely that your dentist is doing all of these things before you enter the room, and therefore, you don’t see it. If you have questions about infection control, talk to your dentist or check ADA.org.

Dear Annie: A year ago, my husband’s grown daughter announced that she would be getting married this summer. Despite heated conversations, she decided to marry in her current city, saying that having her friends in attendance is more important than having her family there.

Her father has always tried to stay involved in her life (to the extent her mother would allow). So you can imagine his shock when he was told that she decided to have her stepfather walk her down the aisle for her big day.

This has caused a huge rift in the family, and my husband feels the only way to save face is not to attend. Eager to avoid the expense of traveling and as a show of support, his extended family also decided not to attend.

I fear that this may cause a permanent end to the father/daughter relationship. Is there any way for this to be resolved? — Evil Stepmother

Dear Stepmom: Did Mom pressure her daughter to have the stepfather walk her down the aisle? If so, the young woman may have felt obligated to comply, and Mom may be giddy at the thought that her ex-husband won’t be there.

It’s also possible that the stepfather helped raise the girl and she wants to honour him. We understand how much this hurts your husband, but we hope he can put aside his pride and be supportive of his daughter on her big day. He should talk directly to her and explain his hurt feelings. We hope she reconsiders.

Dear Annie: This is in response to “Uncomfortable,” the daughter-in-law who feels awkward calling her mother-in-law “Mom.”

I have a wonderful daughter-in-law who calls me “Mil” or Millie. And when I text or phone, I call her Dil. Those are our own personal nicknames, and they work for us. — MIL

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

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