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Bib clips can harbour bacteria despite disinfection

Posted by Joanne Mellor

A significant number of dental bib clips have been found to harbour bacteria even after they have undergone standard disinfection.

Researchers from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and the Forsyth Institute in the US found that while the majority of bacteria is removed after disinfection following a dental procedure, a large amount still remains.

The study analysed clips used on 20 bib holders immediately after they had been used in a procedure at a dental hygiene clinic. They were then sampled for aerobic and anaerobic bacterial contaminants and tested once again post-disinfection.

Around 40 per cent of the bibs tested by researchers during the study were found to contain one or more forms of aerobic bacteria, which can survive and grow in oxygenated environments.

Furthermore, the study showed that 70 per cent of bibs tested post-disinfection retained anaerobic bacteria – the kind which does not live or grow in the presence of oxygen.

And while the researchers have not yet analysed how the remaining bacteria could affect patients, there is a concern that it could thrive and cause complications among some.

Addy Alt-Holland, lead researcher on the study, said: “Although actual transmission to patients was not demonstrated, some of the ubiquitous bacteria found may potentially become opportunistic pathogens in appropriate physical conditions, such as in susceptible patients or clinicians.”

The concern is that the previous patient’s oral bacteria could still be on the clips, meaning that any new patients will be exposed to the germs and possible infection.

It is therefore extremely important, researchers said, that dental practitioners ensure that the environment in which they are working in is as sterile as possible – this is not only for the benefit of patients, but clinicians too as they will be exposed to the same bacterial risks.

Furthermore, rubber-faced metal clips were found to harbour more bacteria so if these are used by practitioners, they should consider changing to metal clips, it was advised.

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