Defeating Oral Micro-organisms
- Fiona Collins
- Oct 9, 2012
Oral micro-organisms have been implicated in oral and systemic infections in the same patient. They have also been implicated in cross-infections from a patient to other patients and healthcare workers. In the dental office, bacterial aerosols are generated that then expose staff and patients to micro-organisms. The greatest treatment-related source of bacterial aerosols is the use of ultrasonic scalers, followed by the use of high-speed handpieces. The bacteria in the aerosols are due to bacterial loads present in saliva and on oral tissues. High levels of bacteria, measured as colony-forming units (CFUs), have been found in dental operatories following the generation of bacterial aerosols, on surfaces that are distant from the source of the aerosol, and have been shown to persist for up to 2 weeks.
The potential for cross-infection underscores the importance of following the guidelines on the use of personal protective equipment as well as single-use disposables when appropriate. Using antimicrobial mouthrinses to reduce patients’ bacterial loads prior to procedures has been recommended by researchers, and the use of a rubber dam will also reduce exposure to bacteria (aerosol-generated and otherwise). Other recommendations that have been suggested include the use of high suction devices and filters in operatories. The presence of bacterial aerosols and the resulting contamination of surfaces also underscores the importance of barrier protection and the use of surface disinfectants in operatories.