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Hand Hygiene: Infection Control/Exposure Control Issues for Oral Healthcare Workers

Géza T. Terézhalmy, DDS, MA; Michaell A. Huber, DDS

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In 2002, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published Guideline for Hand Hygiene in Health-Care Settings.1  Yet, reports of outbreaks of HBV and HCV infections, primarily in medical settings outside of acute care hospitals, indicate a failure of healthcare personnel (HCP) to perform hand hygiene and wear gloves.2  While the guideline applies to oral healthcare settings, evidence also suggests low compliance with recommended hand hygiene practices by oral HCP as well.3,4

Excerpts published by the CDC in 2016 from the Guidelines for Infection Control in Dental Health-Care Settings – 2003 emphasize that oral HCP must perform hand hygiene with either a non-antimicrobial or an antimicrobial soap and water when hands are visibly soiled; otherwise, the preferred method of hand hygiene in clinical situations is with an alcohol-based handrub; and when performing surgical procedures oral HCP must perform surgical hand antisepsis.5

Also in 2016 the CDC published a Summary of Infection Prevention Practices in Dental Settings: Basic Expectations for Safe Care, which states that (1) hand hygiene is the most important measure to prevent the spread of HAIs; (2) ongoing education and competency-based training are critical for ensuring that infection prevention policies and procedures are understood and followed; and (3) following each training cycle, hand hygiene-related competency should be documented.6

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