Dental Concerns

While the bib itself is new and sterile, the bib chain attached to it has probably been used on several previous patients without being sanitized or sterilized

GateHouse News Service 07/01/11

A smiling dental worker pulls on a fresh pair of gloves before picking up a bib chain and attaching it around your neck to that new sterile bib. You lean back, assuming all is safe, sterile and prepared for your dental treatment.

However, while the bib itself is new and sterile, the bib chain attached to it has probably been used on several previous patients without being sanitized or sterilized. It may be contaminated with over spray, dental debris, blood, saliva and, not to mention, the dirty necks of previous patients.

Even more worrisome, not only are you wearing other people’s germs around your neck, there’s a chance that some of those germs could be introduced into your mouth during treatment and even afterward. Infection control specialists call this accidental spread of bacteria among patients and materials “cross contamination.”

Noel Kelsch, a national infection control columnist and former president of the California Dental Hygienists’ Association, 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.”

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