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News / July 18, 2008

Study catches dentists dirty-handed

by Guy Hiscott

A US survey reveals that many dentists are failing to follow the rules when it comes to hand hygiene.

The study, of New York practitioners, discovered that recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – including washing hands between patients and using alcohol sanitisers with each glove change – are not being followed.

Published in the July issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association (Vol. 139:7, pp. 948-957), it found that many dentists were not washing their hands frequently enough, and even more were not using alcohol-based hand sanitisers as often as recommended.

In what appears to be the first study of dentists’ hand hygiene in the US, the researchers sent surveys to 352 general dentists who were members of the New York State Dental Association.

They received 234 responses.

The survey distinguished between washing with soap and water and disinfecting with alcohol sanitisers.

According to the CDC’s Guidelines for Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings – 2002, disinfecting with alcohol sanitisers is more effective.

Most dentists in the survey – 71% – said they washed their hands at the start of the day, 1% start with disinfecting and another 22% do both, leaving 6% who do neither.

But 19% admitted that they neither wash nor disinfect their hands between patients.

Another 24% said they don’t clean their hands each time they remove their gloves.

And 65% didn’t use alcohol sanitizers after removing gloves.

Shockingly, 20% apparently didn’t wear gloves at all.