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No 60 – Using Barriers or Wiping: Have you considered all aspects of your options?

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Managing Director and Founder of Bio Protect discusses why she developed her own business with more environmentally friendly plastic disposables in dental settings.

Through my work in the dental industry I could see, particularly with the use of barriers, how much plastic was going into the bins in one day of patient appointments. Not just in the clinic I worked in but the majority of clinics running day to day. Whilst I realise and respect that the use of barriers is not everyone’s preference, I was motivated to develop my business because I prefer the use of barriers, and like many, was concerned about the environmental impact we were having by using them.

How many times have you heard the question posed: should we wipe or use barriers?

Studies have been conducted to determine which is best, and, what we hear from our educators and lecturers is that wiping or using barriers is as effective as each other but only if each procedure is applied correctly.

It is a preference of each individual clinic to which method they use.

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According to one infection control guideline document adopted by the Dental Board of Australia in their Dental Guidelines for infection Control July 2010, the current NHMRC Guidelines 2010, there is still a need for some barriers. (See NHMRC – Australian Guidelines for Prevention and Control of Infection in Healthcare (2010) Section B1.4 –Routine Management of the Physical Environment, Recommendation No 13 – Barriers.

Use surface barriers to protect clinical surfaces (including equipment) that are:

– Touched frequently with gloved hands during the delivery of patient care

– Likely to become contaminated with blood or body substances

– Difficult to clean

(Exceptions to this should be judged by risk assessment)

Why do I prefer the use of barriers?

Dental assistants have a vital role in maintaining infection control in the surgery. The use of detergents and hospital grade disinfectants, and barriers, and the ability to carry out non touch techniques whilst chairside, plays an important role in obtaining this. The DA must also be able to do so effectively and efficiently to enable a fast and smooth workflow.

It is very hard to affect a quick changeover when needing to ensure a thorough wipe over of all surfaces and have those surfaces ready for a new set up. Some bio burden may be missed. I find with an effective use of a barrier the amount of surface areas which become contaminated is minimised. Once a DA develops effective processes in removing barriers without creating further cross contamination, changeover is fast and the amount of surfaces and bio burden requiring wiping is reduced. Barriers protect expensive equipment from dental materials and provide a visual of what should and should not be touched.

Wiping must be done thoroughly and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations or the process is not effective. This may include that the solution must stay on the surface for a certain time. A wiped surface must be dried prior to resetting. Multiple cloths are required and the method must not result in transfer of contamination from one area to another. Wipe over products can be expensive, are time consuming to use effectively and may have damaging effects over time on expensive equipment. If pre-dispensed wipes are not used the solutions must be freshly made and the containers labelled and maintained.

Some do not prefer the use of barriers due to the waste, the environmental effect and cost.

In the planning stages of my business I determined one patient basic dental treatment in a clinic that fully uses barriers might use up to 10 – 12 barriers per patient, currently costing approximately $0.36 – $0.40 per patient (based on Bio Protect product prices). Changeover process is quick, equipment protected, and we now have an environmentally friendly product. Bio Protect products are made from EPI oxo-biodegrable plastic degrading in landfill within 1 – 2 years. They are sold at a very competitive price, not only making a change to the environment but also your budget.

For more information contact Marie on 0407 837 267 or email

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