A new study has found that 20% to 30% of dental bib clips still harbor bacterial contaminants even after proper disinfection procedures. Rubber-faced metal bib clips were found to retain more bacteria than bib clips made only of metal before disinfection. The study, conducted by researchers at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, in collaboration with researchers at the Forsyth Institute, also found that before disinfection, bib clips used during orthodontic procedures had three times the bacterial load of those used during endodontic procedures, suggesting that the nature of dental treatment impacts the number of bacteria present on the clips.
The study, titled “Do Bib Clips Pose a Cross-Contamination Risk at the Dental Clinic?”, is believed to the first peer-reviewed study to be published on bib clip contamination. ??
The study analyzed bacterial loads on bib clips from a total of 80 dental bib holders—40 collected from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine’s endodontics clinic and another 40 collected from the school’s orthodontics clinic. 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 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 contaminated with bacteria. The researchers found that 30% of the metal bib clips collected from the endodontics clinic and 25% of those collected from the orthodontics clinic were still contaminated with bacteria after disinfection. Additionally, 25% of the rubber-faced metal bib clips collected from the endodontics clinic and 20% of those collected from the orthodontics clinic were still contaminated with bacteria after disinfection.??
When the bib clips were sampled before disinfection, the study found a significant difference in the presence of bacteria on the clips depending on which clinics the clips were sampled from and the style of the bib clip. Before disinfection, metal and rubber-faced metal bib clips collected from the orthodontics clinic had 149% to 205% more bacteria, respectively, than clips collected from the endodontics clinic.
The authors speculate that the use of rubber dams during endodontic treatment may limit the contamination of bib clips, while orthodontic treatment may result in higher bacterial presence on clips since it involves entering and re-entering the mouth multiple times, which could lead to more bacterial contamination from the practitioner’s gloves. They also suggest that adolescent and teenage patients, common to orthodontics, may be more prone to touch and handle the bib clip during treatment. After disinfection, the bacterial counts on clips from both clinics were similarly reduced.??
A continuation study is already underway 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.