Within dentistry, stringent dental infection control measures are vital in order to protect patients and staff. Dental professionals must decontaminate their equipment, implement a dirty-to-clean workflow, and dispose of their waste correctly.
However, infection control is a continuous battle, especially when you take into account that some patients don’t always follow hygiene advice to the letter, or have a lack of understanding that could impact their hygiene habits. You may not be able to ensure patients adopt better hygiene behaviours, but you can equip your practice with high-quality products and solutions to help keep the risk of infection at bay.
The World Health Organization has described effective handwashing as the building block for infection prevention and control.1 In recent years, there has been a spotlight on the importance of handwashing in response to COVID-19; however, research has shown that there are some individuals whose hand hygiene behaviours have begun to decline since the height of the pandemic. As germs can spread like wildfire from physical contact, this may be a cause for concern among dental professionals.
Research2 has found that consumer knowledge regarding good handwashing techniques was strong amongst the survey participants. However, the number of participants who reported washing their hands between 20 and 24 seconds dropped between April 2020 and January 2021, from 35% to 31% respectively.
Researchers also found that many of those surveyed washed their hands less frequently at home. This was due to the fact that the home was considered a ‘safe space’ so the participants felt that they did not need to wash their hands as often, as they were “more confident that they would always have access to handwashing facilities” while at home.
Research3 conducted by YouGov also found a slight decline in the UK respondents who washed their hands ‘frequently’ or ‘always’, between April 2020 (96%) and April 2021 (93%). These statistics could suggest that handwashing regimes may be declining over time.
Dental infection control In the practice
When patients enter a dental practice, there will be several surfaces they come into contact with before they’ve even entered the surgery room. From door handles and the reception desk, to the waiting room chair arms, there are plenty of opportunities for surfaces to be touched by multiple hands and for cross contamination to occur.
Infection measures, such as hand sanitiser stations and informative posters around the practice, are effective in prompting patients to comply. However, there is no way of telling what percentage of patients actually follow good hand hygiene protocols.
A study4 found that not washing your hands after using the toilet is more likely to spread E. coli than consuming raw or undercooked meat (although it should be noted that the study only focused on one specific strain of E. coli). It is most likely impossible to know the true percentage of individuals who do not wash their hands after using the toilet; however, a survey5 did demonstrate that only 85% of UK men aged 16-34 think washing hands after using the toilet is important, with a remaining 15% who do not.
What else could increase the risk of infection? Patients who do not regularly trim their fingernails, or clean away dirt trapped underneath them, could be at risk of spreading infections, such as pinworms.6
Similarly, it has been shown that people are naturally prone to touching the areas around our mouths, noses and eyes,7 increasing the risk of catching a range of germs, as well as spreading them.8 Infants and young children also have a habit of touching objects and surfaces repeatedly, in addition to their face and mouth. As their immune systems are still developing, they are more likely to become seriously ill as a result.9
What can you do about dental infection control?
Making sure that patients adhere to hygiene measures is undoubtedly challenging. You cannot control their bad habits, but you can ensure that your practice is kept clean and hygienic with high-grade disinfection solutions.
For convenient and effective products, Initial Medical is at the forefront of reliable dental infection control. Their Steri-7 Xtra range of disinfectants is comprised of surface cleaners and hand hygiene products, which are tried and trusted to produce the highest levels of cleanliness and sterility.
The Steri-7 Xtra Surface cleaning range is non-corrosive and suitable for use on dental equipment. These solutions also kill up to 99.9999% of pathogens within seconds*, and are effective against Coronavirus.** The Steri-7 Xtra Hand Preparation range is similarly effective against pathogens, moisturises the skin and is classed as a non-irritant. The formula stays active for up to 3 hours after application.***
One of the difficult things about being a dental professional is making sure that your patients not only look after their oral health, but their general health too. You may have little authority over their unfavourable habits, but by using tried and tested disinfection products in your dental practice, you can help to better protect your patients and staff from the spread of infection.
* Source: Steri 7 Xtra
**In independent tests it has been shown that Steri-7 destroys 99.99% of feline Coronavirus, a surrogate for Coronavirus.
***Source: Steri 7 Xtra
About Initial Medical Waste
Initial Medical set the standard in healthcare and infectious waste management in the UK, providing a reliable, effective and fully compliant service built around customer needs and delivered by our highly trained local teams. We are ISO 9001:2015 accredited, with technology fully integrated into our operations, providing full traceability of service delivery, electronic waste documentation and the best customer experience possible. We also offer innovative healthcare waste management services and infection control products, to help break the chain of transmission and prevent cross contamination.
Initial Medical are a company with a ‘World Class’ Health and Safety record, and ISO 45001:2018 accreditation. We are also accredited to ISO 14001:2015 environmental standards, and pride ourselves on our sustainable approach with a focus on delivering eco-friendly products and operational solutions.
1 www.who.int. (2017). Evidence of hand hygiene as the building block for infection prevention and control. [online] Available at: https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/WHO-HIS-SDS-2017.7 [Accessed 6 May 2022].
2 Heard, H. (2021). Consumer Handwashing Research: Handwashing in a Pandemic. [online] Food Standards Agency. Available at: https://www.food.gov.uk/research/behaviour-and-perception/consumer-handwashing-research-handwashing-in-a-pandemic [Accessed 6 May 2022].
3 yougov.co.uk. (2021). COVID-19 Global Behaviours and Attitudes: How preventive behaviours changed during the pandemic | YouGov. [online] Available at: https://yougov.co.uk/topics/health/articles-reports/2021/05/20/covid-19-global-behaviours-and-attitudes-how-preve [Accessed 6 May 2022].
4 Day, M.J., Hopkins, K.L., Wareham, D.W., Toleman, M.A., Elviss, N., Randall, L., Teale, C., Cleary, P., Wiuff, C., Doumith, M., Ellington, M.J., Woodford, N. and Livermore, D.M. (2019). Extended-spectrum β-lactamase-producing Escherichia coli in human-derived and foodchain-derived samples.
from England, Wales, and Scotland: an epidemiological surveillance and typing study. The Lancet Infectious Diseases. [online] Available at: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(19)30273-7/fulltext [Accessed 6 May 2022].
5 Team, M.P. (n.d.). Dirty UK men don’t wash their hands after the toilet. [online] Mintel. Available at: https://www.mintel.com/press-centre/beauty-and-personal-care/just-85-of-young-uk-men-think-its-important-to-wash-their-hands-after-using-the-toilet [Accessed 6 May 2022].
6 Anon, (2019). Nail Hygiene. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/hand/nail_hygiene.html [Accessed 6 May 2022].
7 Kwok, Y.L.A., Gralton, J. and McLaws, M.-L. (2015). Face touching: A frequent habit that has implications for hand hygiene. American Journal of Infection Control, [online] 43(2), pp.112–114. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25637115/ [Accessed 6 May 2022].
8 Don’t Touch Your Face – APIC (2019). Don’t Touch Your Face – APIC. [online] APIC. Available at: https://apic.org/monthly_alerts/dont-touch-your-face/ [Accessed 6 May 2022].
9 www.cdc.gov. (2021). Infants and Young Children | Healthy Pets, Healthy People | CDC. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/specific-groups/high-risk/children.html#:~:text=Infants%20and%20young%20children%20are [Accessed 6 May 2022].