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Study Finds 20-30% of Dental Bib Clips Harbor Bacteria Even After Disinfection

Posted on Wednesday, October 9, 2013

NEWTOWN, PENN. – Aug. 21, 2012 – Researchers from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, in collaboration with researchers from the Forsyth Institute, published a study today that found 20% to 30% of dental bib clips still harbor bacterial contaminants even after proper disinfection procedures. The research study was released today on Compendium’s website and will also be published as a supplement in the October issue of Compendium, one of the leading dental journals in the U.S. This is believed to be the first peer-reviewed study, and joins four other research reports, to have found bacterial contamination on dental bib clips used by dentists and hygienists to secure the dental napkin around a patient’s neck before dental procedures. The full study titled “Do Bib Clips Pose a Cross-Contamination Risk at the Dental Clinic?” is now available for download at

“Our study included statistical analysis and, to the best of our knowledge, is the most comprehensive study to date analyzing the bacterial load on dental bib clips before and after disinfection in two specialized clinics. The study found that disinfecting reduced bacterial contamination by 92% but some bacteria remained on several bib clips even after disinfection. Further research is underway to identify the bacterial species in samples from both pre- and post-disinfected bib clips to determine whether or not they retain disease-causing bacteria and if they pose contamination risks,” said Addy Alt-Holland, M.Sc., Ph.D., Assistant Professor at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and the lead researcher on the study.

The study analyzed bacterial loads on bib clips from a total of 80 dental bib holders gathered from two of the dental school’s clinics. From each chain, both clips that hold the dental bib were sampled before and after practitioners disinfected the bib holder following the school’s disinfection protocol, which requires the holder to be wiped down between each dental patient visit with an EPA-approved disinfectant wipe according to the manufacturer’s instruction. Disinfection was found to reduce bacteria on the bib clips, but did not completely eliminate it, leaving 20 to 30% of the bib clips with bacteria.

“In a busy practice, patients are brought in and out quickly and dentists are doing a lot of different procedures. Patients should be aware that their doctors and hygienists are using good infection control practices. Bib holders need to be adequately cleaned after every patient or disposable bib holders should be used,” said Gerard Kugel, D.M.D, M.S., Ph.D., professor at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and senior author on the study. Dr. Kugel is also Associate Dean for Research at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine.

A continuation study is already underway by researchers at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and the Forsyth Institute to identify the type of bacteria present on dental bib clips before and after disinfection to help determine if there are cross-contamination risks to patients.

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