Dental Bib Chains Become an Infection Control Issue

Fox News has joined the host of media outlets reporting on recent studies that reveal the potential for cross-contamination in dental offices. "As careful as the staff at the office can be to make sure everything is clean, there are other places that are not so obvious when it comes to potentially dangerous germs, especially the chain clips that hold a patient's paper bib," writes Fox News health columnist Colleen Cappon in a July 15 column headlined, "Gross Out…At the Dentist." Ms. Cappon cites a study from the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry which found that one out of 5 bib chains tested were contaminated with bacteria, including traces of Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. The majority of bacteria growth was attributed to saliva, dental plaque, skin, and flesh. Ms. Cappon also references the work of Noel Brandon Kelsch, RDH, former president of the California Dental Hygienists' Association, whose own study was published in a recent issue of Infection Control Today. "The more crevices and indentations on a clip or a chain, the higher the contaminant count," Ms. Kelsch tells Ms. Cappon. Those contaminants, Ms. Cappon reports, can mean trouble for patients. "The Centers for Disease Control defines cross-contamination as the act of spreading bacteria and viruses from one surface to another," Ms. Cappon writes. "Blood-borne viruses have the ability to live on objects and surfaces for as long as a week, meaning germs could be spread easily if surfaces are not disinfected or if equipment is not cleaned between patients."
Fox News also spoke with Dr. John Molinari, Director of Infection Control for THE DENTAL ADVISOR in Ann Arbor, Mich. Dr. Molinari's research determined that reused bib chains contained approximately 1,000 times more bacteria than replaceable or sanitized chains. "Bacteria from (dental) patients' mouths transfers on to surfaces through the air from aerosols from air and water syringe sprays or gloved hands in people's mouths and then touching other items," Dr. Molinari tells Fox News. So, what can patients do to protect themselves? "Patients can ask," Dr. Molinari says. "Talk with your doctor about what they do for infection control. If patients don't ask, they can jump to all kinds of conclusions." Which begs the question: Will dentists be ready with an answer? There are easy, inexpensive solutions including sterilizing between patients and disposable bib holders.
(JC Thomas Marketing Communications, July 11, 2011)
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