Everything you thought you already knew about washing up at the office.
Everyone knows that hand washing is important. It’s emphasized for children in school settings, workers in restaurants, in hospitals; it seems there are signs everywhere reminding us to wash up. Tiny fruit scented bottles of hand sanitizer have found their way onto the backpacks of tweens and the counters of offices everywhere.
The dental office should be no exception when it comes to washing hands. Furthermore, we would expect even more attention to be paid to hand washing in the dental office. And, it turns out that keeping your hands clean is more complicated than a quick scrub with some hot water.
Wash with what?
The best choice is an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60%-95% alcohol. Hand sanitizers kill the bacteria on your hands by denaturing the proteins in the bacteria (a fancy way of saying it breaks their bodies apart). The germs can’t develop adaptations or resistance to the alcohols in the same way they can toward antibiotics and antibacterials.
Additionally, alcohol-based hand sanitizers require less time. It’s easier to reach for the sanitizer than walk to a hand washing station. Hand sanitizers also don’t irritate the skin as much as soap and water and less irritated skin is less likely to pick up germs.
Right now, pretend you’re washing your hands or rubbing sanitizer on them. Wherever you’re reading, just put your hands together and watch what you do. Chances are you rubbed your palms together and maybe rubbed the backs of your hands or in between your fingers. But recent research suggests that’s not enough. In fact, the tips of your fingers and thumbs are often neglected yet most likely to transmit germs.
When you reach for the hand sanitizer, start with your fingertips and your thumbs. Be generous. Make sure you use enough to cover all of the important spots. And, remember that 15 seconds is a minimum time to rub that sanitizer onto your hands. It’s OK, and recommended, that you do a longer and more thorough job.
Basically, always. When you take off dirty gloves and between patients, obviously. But less obviously, you should disinfect when you move from a contaminated site to a clean site on the same patient. High touch surfaces like counters, knobs and handles, and light switches should be frequently cleaned, and you should sanitize after moving from one location to another in the office to reduce the risk of transmitting bacteria around the office.
Doesn’t everyone already know all this?
It turns out, they don’t. Recent studies have shown that some healthcare providers are practicing good hygiene only half of the time. Staff often need a reminder and a review of best practices. It makes sense to refresh techniques and create workplace habits that eliminate risk.
Review with your staff today to prevent transmission of germs and keep your office compliant and clean.