Preventing cross contamination – Kate Scheer W&H UK

Featured Products Promotional Features

  Posted by: Dental Design      5th May 2019

It may seem like a distant memory, but many of us have been fortunate enough to enjoy days of hot, sunny weather this year. Thousands more Britons have also travelled abroad to enjoy a well-earned break in more exotic locations. Although the majority of holidaymakers have returned to the UK feeling refreshed and sporting a bronze glow, some have had their trips ruined as a result of food poisoning. This summer, hundreds of guests were evacuated from Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in Egypt following the deaths of a British couple who had fallen ill during their stay. Experts found that the couple – along with many of the other guests – had been ill from food poisoning caused by high levels of E.coli and staphylococcus found within the hotel.[i],[ii]

Some people may shrug this off as an isolated incident, but the reality is that an individual’s risk of suffering from food poisoning is increased if they stay at hotels and restaurants abroad. This is often down to lax food hygiene practises – including poor cross contamination protocols – which can lead to the spread of harmful bacteria in food and drink. The dangers of this issue cannot be underestimated, as one young boy demonstrated when he suffered from sepsis, seizures and a stroke after he contracted salmonella whilst holidaying overseas. Worryingly, he had been staying at the Tia Heights Hotel, just a few miles away from the Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel.[iii]The recent cases of food poisoning in these locations may not be related, but they do emphasise the importance of preventing cross contamination, which is also a major concern within the dental care setting.

Cross contamination is responsible for the transmission of infectious diseases from substances and surfaces to people, and vice versa. It is a leading cause of food poisoning, as harmful bacteria is unintentionally transferred from raw substances to cooked food, and then consumed. Most of us are already aware that it is vital to wash our hands, ingredients, utensils, cutting boards, and the work surfaces we have used in our kitchen to prepare food. Dental practitioners have a similar duty to implement effective cleaning and hygiene measures in order to reduce the likelihood of cross contamination throughout the practice. Otherwise, every surface within the surgery, from the magazines in the waiting room to the dental chair in the operatory, is at risk of contamination.

Regular cleaning and disinfection is crucial within dental practices, especially considering the impressive survival rates of harmful microbes on high-contact surfaces. For instance, flu virus bacteria can live on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours, while particles of the highly contagious norovirus can survive for several days or weeks.[iv]More disturbingly, MRSA – which is often harder to treat than other bacterial infections – can survive on both hard and soft surfaces for months if not removed.[v]As approximately 80% of infectious diseases are spread through direct contact alone, the opportunities for cross contamination between patients, staff, and various surfaces within the dental practice are limitless.[vi]To ensure practices avoid the spread of diseases, cleaning and disinfection protocols must be implemented safely and correctly, using reliable products and equipment.

Routine hand washing is absolutely essential to preventing cross contamination, particularly in regards to the use of surgical instruments and devices. This should be performed for at least 15 to 30 seconds, before clinicians dry their hands with disposable paper towels.[vii]Practitioners are advised against using air dryers, as MRSA has been found three times more often on the surfaces of these devices compared to paper towels.[viii]This is basic knowledge of bodily hygiene practises, which should be part of comprehensive training for all dental team members. Staff should also be educated on how and where to use specific products within the practice. For instance, all surfaces in the patient treatment area should be cleaned and disinfected after every session using proven solutions and disposable cloths or clean microfibre materials – even if the area appears uncontaminated.

Investing in modern decontamination equipment is essential to facilitating high standards of infection control. Sourcing equipment from a trusted manufacturer like W&H ensures you are able to benefit from a complete range of decontamination solutions and professional support, so that you are able to achieve best practice. Practitioners can outfit their surgeries with W&H’s cost-effective Lisa type B vacuum sterilizer, the ThermoKlenz washer disinfector, and the innovative Assistina TWIN handpiece maintenance device. These state-of-the-art products boast an excellent range of features for ultimate ease-of-use and consistently high performance, so you and your dental team can continue adhering to stringent CQC requirements.   

However, it is important to remember that, if not implemented correctly, even the best products will not be effective against potentially dangerous bacteria that may be lurking within the practice. By following the most appropriate infection prevention protocols, clinicians can ensure they drastically reduce the risk of cross contamination for the health and safety of everyone in the dental care setting and beyond.


To find out more visit, call 01727 874990 or email



[i]BBC News. (2018) Hygiene tests find E.coli at Egypt hotel where tourists died. Link: [Last accessed: 12.09.18].

[ii]BBC. (2018) E.coli ‘caused Egypt hotel couple’s deaths’. Link: [Last accessed: 12.09.18].

[iii]Olsen, M. B. (2018) Boy, 7, fighting for life after food poisoning gave him a stroke on holiday in Egypt. Metro. Link: [Last accessed: 12.09.18]. 

[iv]NHS. (2018) How long do bacteria and viruses live outside the body? Link: [Last accessed: 12.09.18].

[v]CDC. (2008) Environmental Management of Staph and MRSA in Community Settings. Link: [Last accessed: 12.09.18].

[vi]Initial. (Unknown) Five shocking facts about hand hygiene. Link: [Last accessed: 12.09.18].

[vii]Department of Health. (2013) Decontamination – Health Technical Memorandum 01-05: Decontamination in primary care dental practices. Link: [Last acces

[viii]European Tissue Symposium. (2018) Position on the use of electric air dryers versus paper hand towels. Link: [Last accessed: 12.09.18].

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.