Dental Chains are Potential Source for Infection and Disease

Most of us would never use or even touch the wet, used towels. But without knowing it, we may be sharing something that could be just as disgusting and potentially dangerous. When we visit a dental office and a bib chain that is not sterilized between patients is placed around our neck, we may be unwittingly exposed to pseudomonas, E. coli and S. aureus – the most common cause of staph infections and a potential "superbug."

Noel Kelsch, a national infection control columnist, conducted a study on various types of dental chains and clips after seeing debris falling from a chain she had planned to use to protect her uniform at lunch. What she found led her to pen a column titled "Don't Clip that Crud on Me" for RDH Magazine, a trade publication for dental hygienists.

"The more crevices and indentations on a clip or a chain, the higher the contaminant count," she says. As expected, disposable clips and holders opened fresh for each patient, were free from contaminants and posed no cross-contamination threats. "As an advocate for patient safety within our profession, I think it's very important to take whatever steps we can to eliminate sources of potential harm for our patients."

In a supplement to the March 2011 issue of Dimensions of Dental Hygiene titled "Infection Control Update," Dr. John Molinari, referenced a study he conducted that looked at the presence and composition of bacterial contaminants on patient bib chains before and after patient care appointments. His results showed that microbial contamination was present on both metal and coiled plastic bib chains after use during patient care, with the highest bacteria levels found on bib chains that were not cleaned between patient uses.

"Society is putting an emphasis on healthier living," Kelsch says. "We're seeing an increased awareness of infection control and disease prevention everywhere we look. Grocery stores provide hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes for cart handles; health clubs provide disinfectant sprays so you can clean up dental equipment after you've used it. If you take the trouble to do those things – then one simple solution to protect yourself from dirty bib chains is to insist on disposable bib holders."

In addition to providing patients with a safer dental visit, Kelsch notes that disposable dental bib holders are critical tools in the fight against the creation of more "superbugs."

 


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