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5/31/2018 » 6/3/2018
2018 OSAP Annual Conference

Disinfection Archived Through 2012
 FAQ - Disinfection - Archived Through 2012



I was asked how long microorganisms live on surfaces (i.e. when chart paperwork is contaminated). Does OSAP have an answer, or how can I find one?

Each pathogen (e.g. bacteria, viruses, etc.) has a different survival time period and without culturing each record, it would be impossible to know what specific pathogens are present on the charts or other inanimate surfaces/objects.

For example, the authors of Infection Control & Management of Hazardous Materials for the Dental Team state that the Hepatitis B virus can remain viable at room temperature for at least one month. (1)

If notations must be made in the patient record/chart during treatment dental infection control experts still recommend using over-gloves or using scrap paper to make notations that can be transferred to the patient chart after treatment is completed.

Dental infection control experts state the following:

Cross-contamination often occurs without anyone noticing. During treatment, you may reach for an instrument that is stored in a cabinet, make notes in the patient's record, answer the phone, or adjust your glasses. These events, and others can cause the potential transfer of microorganisms.

There are two ways to reduce cross-contamination: (1) Don't interrupt treatment, (2) Don't touch anything that is not essential for patient treatment. During treatment, avoid touching unprotected surfaces and equipment, including the patient's record. While you may need to make chart entries while in the operatory, the patient's record poses a unique challenge because it's very difficult to decontaminate. Ideally, records should be left outside the treatment area, with notes made after treatment is completed. If the record must be kept in the operatory, it should be stored in a place not at risk for cross-contamination, such as in a clean drawer or located on a counter out of the area of aerosolization. If you must make notes, use an over-glove. If you are using a computer system, the keyboard in the operatory should be barrier protected between patients. In either case, you can write on a separate scrap piece of paper and later rewrite those notes in the chart outside the operatory. It may also be easier to have another person make entries, provided their hands, or gloves, are not contaminated. Remember to barrier protect or clean/disinfect the pen or pencil between patients, and discard any scrap paper in the same manner as contaminated or plain waste, as appropriate.(2)


(1) Infection Control & Management of Hazardous Materials for the Dental Team, 3rd edition. By Miller and Palenik. Elsevier/Mosby Publisher. Copyright 2005.

(2) OSAP's Interact Infection Control & Safety Training System by Eklund and Bednarsh. Copyright 1999, InVision, Inc..

There are several studies that may be of interest to you.

1) Fomites and Infection Transmission by Kris Ellis.

2) Survival of Enterococci and Staphylococci on Hospital Fabrics and Plastic by Alice Neely and matthew Maley.

3) Survival of Acinetobacter baumannii on Dry Surfaces by Constanze Wendt, Beate Dietze, Ekkehart Dietz, and Henning Ruden. Journal of clinical Microbiology, June 1997, p. 1394-1397. Vol. 35, No. 6.

4) The Survival Rates of Streptococci In The Dark by Leon Buchbinder and Earle Phelps.

5) Survival of herpes simplex virus and other selected microorganisms on patient charts: potential source of infection by L.Thomas, R. Sydiskis, D. DeVore, and G Krywolap.

JADA. J Am Dent Assoc, Vol 111, No. 3, 461-464.

6) Using A biological Indicator To Detect Potential Sources Of Cross-Contamination In The Dental Operatory by Raymond Hackney Jr., James Crawford, and Jerry Tulis.

JADA. Vol. 129, Nov. 1998.


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