Hand hygiene myths

Hand hygiene starts with our family upbringing. Then during our dental training years our existing internal value system is merged with those family habits or values. Years go on and we hear rumors of regulation, talk to influential sales people and witness charismatic lecturers and we might find ourselves subject to hand hygiene myths.
For dentists, and in Australian healthcare in general, the definative authority on hand hygiene is Hand Hygiene Australia.* (Yes it is the quoted source on the DBA required infection control  guideline documents)
To find the most current information on Hand Hygiene check out the HHA Manual.

It’s hard to break away from my own default actions but check out the current requirements for hand hygiene:

  1. The first Hand hygiene episode of the day or when we enter the clinic is a hand wash with water – MYTH.
    Since 2002 Alcohol-based handrub has been defined as the gold standard for hand hygiene practices, whereas hand washing is reserved for particular situations only (e.g. VISIBLY soiled)
  2. Hand washing with water is more effective than Alcohol Based Hand Rub – MYTH
    See above and alcohol-based handrub is quicker, less irritating and drying to your skin and doesn’t make paper towel waste!
  3. You need a hand washing sink in the sterilisation room – MYTH
    In HHA Manual 3.13 specifically refers to Alcohol-based handrub and sterilisation departments and says that hand hygiene products for use can be EITHER alcohol-based hand rubs or liquid soaps.
  4. You need a hand washing sink in the dental surgery – MYTH
    See above
  5. Best practice is to hand wash with water and then Alcohol Based Hand Rub – MYTH
    Actually if hand are at all wet then alcohol-based hand rub will be less effective. This is a time waster.
  6. We don’t need to do hand hygiene if we put on gloves – MYTH
    Gloves have micro-holes in them and these have been shown to get bigger the longer we have gloves on. It is also difficult to remove gloves without contaminating our own hands.
  7. We don’t need to do hand hygiene when we remove gloves because they have kept our hands clean – MYTH
    See above.

How much Alcohol-based Hand rub do you need?
Conveniently you can assess that by using the volume that needs 15-20 seconds to dry on your hands.

But I am wearing gloves anyway!
Studies has shown about 30% of healthcare workers who wear gloves have micro-organisms from their patients on their hands. This can be because of micro holes or the way gloves are removed.

*As stated by The ADA infection control guidelines and NHMRC Infection Control and prevention guidelines

Author: Glenda Farmer

Leading innovative Smartdentist to provide online dental practice accreditation and infection control solutions for SMART dentists and practice managers