Dental Tribune Europe

Researchers find bacteria on 70 per cent of dental bib holders

By Dental Tribune International
March 22, 2012

WITTEN, Germany: The sterilisation protocol for dental bib holders is inconsistent and can result in the presence of bacteria such as pseudomonas and micro-organisms, researchers from Germany have proved. In a study, they found bacteria on more than two-thirds of reusable bib holders.

The researchers at the Witten/Herdecke University in Witten, Germany, examined 30 metal and plastic bib holders.

“The analyses of the bacterial load showed that 70 per cent of all reusable bib holders were contaminated with bacteria. The predominant colony types identified were staphylococci and streptococci. On several bib chains, we also found various bacterial rods, pseudomonas, fungi and other types of cocci,” said Prof. Stefan Zimmer, lead investigator of the study and scientific director at the Witten/Herdecke University. “Although the bacteria found in this study were all non-pathogenic, in principle reusable bib holders can cross-contaminate dental patients.”

The bacteria found on the bib holders do not usually cause disease in healthy people, but can be a threat to immunosuppressed patients, as well as young children and the elderly, who often have compromised immune systems. Bacteria from an unsterilised bib holder can enter the body when a patient touches the bib holder or her neck after a dental visit and then rubs an eye or touches the mouth.

Cross-contamination can also occur when a bib chain is splattered with saliva, plaque, blood and spray from the mouth, when it catches onto hair and accumulates the wearer’s sweat, make-up or discharge from neck acne, and if the dental worker applies a dirty bib chain with her gloved hands before the examination or cleaning.

Several other studies have found similar results. Three US studies found unacceptable levels of microbial contamination on dental bib holders, including pseudomonas, E. coli and S. aureus, the most common cause of staph infection.

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