You must have heard from your parents to wash your hands before starting eating. Have you ever wondered what is the significance of hand hygiene and oral health?
Well, when your hands are not clean, you are letting the bacteria and germs enter your mouth by using the same hands.
Hence, parents emphasize eating with clean hands and cooking with them too.
Your hands are one way through which several bacteria can enter your body.
In the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, handwashing has become essential.
This article discusses how you can maintain hand hygiene in order to prevent oral health problems and other diseases.
Keep reading to know more!
Practicing Hand Hygiene in Daily Life
Wash your hands before and after several actions you take in your daily life.
It helps to get rid of the germs, viruses and bacteria making them unable to penetrate your body through your hands.
However, you just don’t need to wash your hands rather clean them properly.
Rub between the fingers and scrub properly for at least 20 seconds to get rid of all germs.
Therefore, simply rinsing will not help get rid of all the bacteria.
So how should you clean your hands?
- First, wet them with water that is clean and turn off the tap.
- Next, apply soap. Lather your hands completely by rubbing your hands and their back, applying it under the fingernails as well as between your fingers.
- Next, scrub your hands in all these areas for 20 seconds.
- You can time this by singing the popular “Happy Birthday” song twice.
- Finally, it is time to rinse your hands. Do so by turning the tap on using clean water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel, piece of cloth or air drying.
20 seconds gives time to the soap or hand wash to work on your hands and clean it completely.
Simply rubbing and rinsing is not enough to get rid of the bacteria.
It is especially important to wash your hands before you prepare a meal and after you are done.
Also, before eating and after using the washroom.
This way you can prevent several harmful bacteria from entering your body and also transmitting them to other people around you.
Even when people around you are ill, it is important to wash your hand after you take care of them.
Especially if they have a viral infection that is contagious like Covid-19.
Hand Hygiene in Dentistry
Dentists take special care in infection control.
Since, they deal directly with the patients’ mouths, they have to ensure that there si no spread of disease.
In dental practice, hand hygiene can refer to cleaning your hands with regular soap or water, using an antimicrobial soap, using an antiseptic hand rub, and a surgical hand antisepsis.
All dentists and dental hygienists need to follow the infection control procedures.
They should wear no jewelry or watches, trim nails till one quarter inch length and file them so that there are no sharp edges.
Dentists will take hygiene measures when:
- Before they treat patients and after they are done treating them.
- When their hands are visibly dirty and soiled
- Before replacing your gloves and after removing those that are torn
- Before you leave the dental operatory
- After you touch objects that may have saliva, blood and other secretions
Dentist wear utility gloves but especially when they are handling contaminated instruments.
When you are cleaning your hands for routine work that is not a surgical procedure, you can use either plain soap and water, a special antimicrobial soap or an alcohol based sanitizer.
The sanitizer or hand rub should have at least 60 to 95 percent of alcohol concentration for it to be effective against germs.
However, it will not be useful is your hands are visibly soiled.
On the other hand, plain water and soap or alcohol hand sanitizers are both not as effective in surgical procedures.
You will have to clean with an antimicrobial soap and water.
Plus follow it with using an alcohol hand rub.
Moreover, you can use alcohol based hand rubs when you do not have easy access to soap and water.
This could be in a mobile dental clinic or during dental screenings at the places like schools.
What Other Measures Can Dentists Take
Taking the best measures for hand hygiene will prevent oral and other health problems in your patients.
Otherwise, they will be at risk of infection.
During your appointment, wear gloves sto prevent any spread of infection before the treatment.
However, wear gloves on clean hands.
Before you wear your gloves, remember to dry your hands as they should be free of moisture.
This way they will be easier to wear and reduce chances of skin irritation.
If you use a moisturizer, use a water based one rather than an oil or petroleum based moisturizer.
The latter can weaken the latex gloves.
Hence, wash your hands and wear gloves to ensure you will not spread infection.
Use Hand Sanitizers
Alcohol based hand rubs have the most efficacy in reducing bacteria.
However, hand sanitizers should have at least 60 percent ethanol and 70 percent isopropanol to be effective.
During Covid-19, this concentration of alcohol helps to inactivate viruses that have similar properties to 2019-nCov.
Therefore, it is vital to use it in your practice alongside antimicrobial soap.
Apply it according to the instructions and rub your hands together to dry.
Drying can take up longer than 10 to 15 seconds.
If your hands are already dry by this time, there is a chance you applied very less product.
As long as there is no visible contamination, you can use either hand rub or antimicrobial soap.
However, alcohol hand rubs with 60 to 95 percent concentration of alcohol are the best at killing germs.
While they can inactivate several microbes, the correct use is important.
Once, your practice is clean and follows all measures to control infection, your patients are not at risk of getting an infection by visiting your clinic.
However, they should be careful at home to prevent it.
Hand Hygiene At Home
When you are cooking at home and eating, washing hands before that is absolutely nescessary.
However, what you eat also determines whether you will have oral health problems or not.
Health issues, poor diet such as eating sugary and acidic foods as well as poor oral hygiene can result in bacteria in your mouth.
Hence, you may get bad breath, decay and cavities.
Therefore, if you want to take care of your oral health, you also need to eat well and clean.
Whether your hands remain clean throughout the day or not depends on if you wash them when you are supposed to.
While you prepare food, before and after it is important to wash hands.
If you are caring for someone who is sick especially with vomiting and diarrhea, that’s when you need to wash your hands with soap and water.
Similarly, if you have a pet then wash hands with soap after giving them treats, cleaning their waste, or giving them food.
If you treat a wound or a cut then you need to clean hands right afterward to prevent the spread of infection from the blood.
Also wash your hands after using the washroom and cleaning a child as well as changing their diapers.
If you dispose off garbage or touch it, you should clean your hands.
Furthermore, if your hands are visibly dirty such as after after playing outdoors, gardening it while camping, you will need to wash your hands.
The same goes for greasy hands.
If you ate something oily then washing with soap and water will get rid of the greasiness.
While you can use a sanitizer too when soap and water are not accessible, it is better to wash your hands.
Otherwise, you can get health problems including oral ones.
Oral Health Problems to Avoid
Eating well will prevent tooth decay and cavities.
If you wash your hands properly then you can prevent many infections and diseases that can transfer from the dirt you handled, waste and garbage.
Therefore, eat healthy food and handle it only with clean handles while preparing and eating.
Similarly, if dentists do not wash their hands properly or use an alcohol hand rub, they can transmit and spread infections from their unclean hands.
Hence, they need to follow the hand hygiene protocol for infection control.
Keeping your hands clean can prevent several health problems.
Thus, remain clean in the house and outside.
Using a hand wash, soap, antimicrobial soap, hand sanitizer and alcohol based hand rub can protect you from viruses, bacteria and germs that surround your environment.
In the pandemic, it is especially important to be wary of infections and diseases.
There are other preventive measures too such as wearing a mask and practicing social distance.
However, keeping your hands clean can also protect you from other germs, bacteria and viruses that can harm your body and cause physical and oral illnesses.
Thus maintain proper hand hygiene throughout your daily routine in order to prevent oral health problems.