One infection control procedure that needs to be more closely monitored is the radiographic film and its processing procedures. Since dental film packages are exposed to a patient`s saliva, it would seem that it is in this area that infection control should be followed rigorously.
Plastic-covered film provide an effective barrier which prevent bacteria from crossing onto the film. However, contamination of plastic-covered film occurs when the film is opened and exposed to the operator`s nonsterile gloves. Once the film is retrieved from the patient`s mouth, the unchanged gloves exposes everything it comes in contact with from the darkroom door handle to the uncontaminated film inside of its cover.
Such problems have led to the search for alternative methods. The development of plastic protective barriers is one alternative that makes handling of contaminated films easier and more simple.
The polyester envelopes protect the films from coming into contact with either saliva or blood. The barriers are large enough to fit No. 2 films, but a No. 1 can be placed into the envelopes as well with the extra plastic folded over. The barrier-protected films will still fit into film-holding instruments.
After exposure, the plastic envelope has a precut notch on the side which makes it easy to tear open the barrier and let the clean film drop into a container. An added advantage to the plastic barriers is that they can be removed from the film in a lighted area, causing even less of a chance for the film to come into contact with the contaminated envelope.
The protective plastic envelopes do have negative aspects however. Cost is an issue. But they should be well worth it if they can prevent spread of diseases, provide a safer environment, and make infection control easier to follow.
H. Thuy Nguyen
EWU dental hygiene student