Improving dental hygiene with copper

Splashes resulting from the use of high-speed rotating instruments used for dental treatments have been identified as a potential source of cross-contamination between patients.

The formation of microbial aerosols enables particles to spread onto surrounding surfaces where germs can survive for days, even months.

Whilst good hand hygiene and regular surface cleaning are key to combatting infection, more can be done. Copper is inherently antimicrobial.

On contact, disease-causing pathogens are quickly and completely eradicated. Copper shares this benefit with many alloys – including very familiar ones such as brass and bronze – which are collectively termed ‘antimicrobial copper’. Touch surfaces made from antimicrobial copper consistently harbour significantly fewer germs than other contact surfaces and contribute to a more hygienic environment.

Antimicrobial copper items – such as chair arms, door handles, taps, light switches and handrails – are already used in healthcare settings across the world to reduce the spread of infections. Now, following a campaign to bring the remarkable properties of antimicrobial copper to areas beyond healthcare, a dental practice in the Netherlands is showcasing the possibilities for a dental facility.

Throughout the new dental practice, the door furniture is made from bronze, a copper alloy benefiting from the metal’s antimicrobial properties. The surgery’s owner, Dr Jan Willem Venema, explains his decision: ‘When developing a new dental practice, I thought a lot about how I could improve everything and make it all more hygienic. Sometimes you don’t need to look far; you can achieve a lot simply by using the right materials.’

Taking advantage of a grant offered by Copper Alliance, Dr Venema approached a local manufacturer of antimicrobial copper items – FSB – to place an order.

René Wolken of FSB describes the installation’s progress: ‘I first contacted Dr Venema by telephone, then everything happened rather quickly. On-site, we considered which door handles matched the interior, and the bronze range was discussed because hygiene was a crucial factor. Once the right choice had been made, the installation work began and the fantastic results are plain to see.’

Dr Venema opted to continue the bronze aesthetic beyond touch surfaces, having matching numbers made for the internal doors.

‘Initially, the architect had proposed numbers in stainless steel, but they would have been less noticeable on white doors,’ he explains.

‘The idea soon took shape to also use numbers in oxidised copper on a layer of plastic, a building product that comes into its own here, and moreover matches the bronze door handles perfectly.’

On the subject of whether the antimicrobial copper installation offers Dr Venema’s clients added value, he says: ‘Absolutely. I will certainly point out these details to my patients and on my website. Dozens of people will come into contact with the door handles in this practice, and cross-contamination will be greatly reduced because they are made from antimicrobial copper. My patients will see that this practice takes a proactive approach to their safety.’

For more information and case studies, and to see the range of antimicrobial copper products

available from companies around the world, visit www.antimicrobialcopper.org.

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