Objectives: To investigate the real-world re-use of disposable dental supplies (DDS) in dental offices and assess the relationship between general characteristics of dental hygienists and re-use of DDS, with respect to infection control characteristics. Methods: A questionnaire was administered to 277 dental hygienists to assess their general characteristics, awareness of infection control/DDS management, and re-use of DDS. Nine DDS were categorized into the following categories based on their purpose: Critical, Semicritical, Noncritical, and Personal protective equipment (PPE). The association between general characteristics of dental hygienists and re-use of DDS, with respect to infection control characteristics, was assessed using the chi-squared test. Results: All 9 DDS were re-used to different extents. The highest re-use rate of supplies were for masks (64.6%), prophylaxis cups (61.0%) and plastic saliva ejectors (30.0%). Overall, 89.5% of the participants re-used DDS; subgroup analysis showed the following proportions of specific DDS re-use: PPE 66.4%; Semicritical DDS 63.9%; Noncritical DDS 19.5%; and Critical DDS 1.8%. Based on the type of clinic, the rate of re-use was higher in dental clinics than dental hospitals. Thus, the re-use of DDS may be caused by inappropriate or nonexistent guidelines or habitual practice, rather than the awareness or attitude of dental hygienists. Conclusions: In order to ensure a safe environment within the dental clinic, DDS classifications must be clearly outlined in the dental infection control guidelines; moreover, additional studies are needed regarding the regulations for DDS re-use and disposal.
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