5.3 Hand Hygiene

Hand hygiene is a hand cleaning method that significantly reduces the presence of pathogens (hazardous microorganisms) on the hands. It is a critical component of reducing the risk of infection transmission among patients and healthcare workers. Hand hygiene practices include using alcohol-based hand massagers (60–95 percent alcohol) and soap and water hand washing.

You should perform a preoperative skin scrub before putting on sterile surgeon’s gloves for medical procedures and use an alcohol-based hand rub or plain/antiseptic soap specific for regular dental assessments and nonoperative procedures in healthcare environments.

In most medical settings, an alcohol-based hand rub is favored over soap and water unless hands are noticeably dirtied (stained with dirt, blood, or body fluids) because it:

  • Kills potentially deadly germs on hands more effectively than soap
  • Takes up less time
  • Is easier to use than handwashing sinks
  • Reduces bacterial counts on hands
  • Improves the skin’s condition while causing minor irritation and dryness.
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