I don’t have a thing to wear

June 1, 2010
Raising children has given me perspectives I could not have gained anywhere else. I understand about not having anything to wear better than most.

by Noel Kelsch, RDHAP
[email protected]

Raising children has given me perspectives I could not have gained anywhere else. I understand about not having anything to wear better than most. One day, when my 16-year-old daughter was away, I decided to clean the area that my daughter called her bedroom (I called it the pit). This is an area that she was free to be herself as long as the door was closed.

She painted one wall zebra; another wall was for her friends to sign their names. The far wall was an underwater scene we had painted together and the ceiling was draped in silk star print with thousands of glow-in-the dark stars dangling from the center of the room. The floor was used as a converted closet and dresser all in one. Her wardrobe consisted of clean and dirty piles.

While cleaning her room, I discovered that my daughter owned 46 T-shirts in every color of the rainbow. When she returned home, she asked to go to the store because she did not have anything to wear. She was right. Even though she had 46 T-shirts, she did not possess one formal. We visited more than two dozen stores, and I became very enlightened. I now know that you can have access to hundreds of things to wear and still not possess one appropriate thing to wear.

In dentistry, we are given guidelines on appropriate wear, but how many of us get stuck in what we have been wearing, forgetting that there are items designed to meet the needs of the tasks we are performing?

Utility Gloves

One area that is often overlooked is utility gloves.

The Center for Disease Control states, “Use appropriate gloves (e.g., puncture- and chemical-resistant utility gloves) when cleaning instruments and performing housekeeping tasks involving contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM).”1

This means that clinicians should not be using patient care gloves to process instruments or do housekeeping tasks. Utility gloves are designed for those tasks.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s stand on the subject is, “The person handling the instruments through removal, cleaning, packaging and sterilization needs to use heavy-duty gloves to help prevent injury with sharp contaminated instruments.”

Puncture-resistant utility gloves are designed to provide more protection for hands during operatory cleanup and processing of instruments that the thin patient care gloves cannot provide. These are available in a variety of materials from nitrile to latex. It is important to check with the manufacturer or supplier for compatibility with the chemicals you will be using. Some materials break down very quickly with specific products. It is important that each clinician have their own pair of utility gloves that fits their individual size of hands.2

Some people complain that utility gloves feel less tactile sensitivity and are more bulky than patient care gloves. Remember that the clinician does not need tactile sensitivity when they are cleaning instruments and other housekeeping tasks. A variety of materials are now available, and an even larger variety of sizes help eliminate this problem. The safety features in the product make it a must in any infection control prevention program.

Going green

Reusable utility gloves allow us to go green, eliminating the use of disposable patient care gloves for tasks that involve instrument cleaning or housekeeping tasks that include contact with blood or OPIM. Unlike gloves used during patient-care activities, utility gloves are

not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and can be washed or disinfected for reuse. Utility gloves should be routinely inspected and replaced for punctures, tears, cracks or other signs of deterioration.3,4 They can be washed with an antimicrobial hand-washing agent, rinsed and dried.4

Having the right thing to wear in the right size not only affected my daughter in her search for a formal but it is a vital part of the infection control protocol. My daughter found her latex formal at a shop in San Francisco but that is another story.


  1. CDC. Guidelines for environmental infection control in health-care facilities: recommendations of CDC and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC). MMWR 2003;52(No. RR-10).
  2. Infection Control and Management of Hazardous Materials for the Dental Care Team, 3rd edition.
  3. airforcemedicine.afms.mil/idc/groups/public/documents/.../ctb_109868.pdf Accessed 4/3/2010.
  4. MMWR report June 24, 1988 / 37(24);377-388, Perspectives in Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Update: Universal Precautions for Prevention of Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus, Hepatitis B Virus, and Other Bloodborne Pathogens in Health-Care Settings.

Noel Brandon Kelsch, RDHAP, is a syndicated columnist, writer, speaker, and cartoonist. She is a member of the Organization for Safety and Asepsis Procedures and has received many national awards. Kelsch owns her dental hygiene practice that focuses on access to care for all. She has devoted much of her 35 years in dentistry to educating people about the devastating effects of methamphetamine and drug use. She is immediate past president of the California Dental Hygienists’ Association, and is on the board of directors for the Simi Valley Free Clinic.

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