A study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Dentistry Oral Microbiology Laboratory found that dental bib clips may be potential sources of cross-contamination in a dental office.
Surveys show that bib chains and clips are on the radar as potential sources of contamination. A bib chain can ‘grab’ onto hair or accumulate patient’s sweat, make‐up, hair products, neck acne, dermatitis, etc in the crevices and inaccessible areas of the holder. Yet not many dental offices have taken steps to protect their patients.
Researchers sampled 50 bib clips from hygiene and dental operatories. One out of five bib clips were found to have a presence of significant microorganisms.
Of most concern were the pathogenic species found: pseudomonas, S. aureus and the enteric bacteria, E. coli. Patients with compromised immune systems or breathing disorders may be at more risk considering some of the disease-causing bacteria found have been implicated in severe respiratory infections.
Microorganisms found on the bib clips in the UNC study were not just from skin but also from saliva and plaque.
Bacteria from the previous patient can stay on the clip and be passed on to the next unsuspecting patient or dental professional. UNC found that the species comprising the contamination on the clips were consistent with coming from saliva and/or dental plaque, skin or water lines.
There are ways to avoid the risk of bib chain contamination. An dental office can effectively sterilize chains between patients or choose a disposable bib holder that is discarded with the bib. When choosing a solution, an office should consider which option reduces the risk the most and which option is easiest to implement.