2.3 Principle II: Avoid Contact with Blood

Personal Protective Equipment

Barrier ExampleThe need for personal protective equipment (PPE) (e.g., gloves, face protection, protective clothing) is determined based on the amount of anticipated spatter or contact with the patient’s mucous membranes or with instruments, equipment, or surfaces that may be contaminated with infectious agents.2 PPE is not necessary for screenings and visual examinations during which the oral health professional is unlikely to touch mucous membranes. However, oral health professionals should use gloves for any screening or examination during which there is potential for touching mucous membranes. PPE should be worn in the patient-care area only.2


Gloves are single-use, disposable items, and they cannot be re-used or washed (washing may permit "wicking," which allows fluid to be drawn into any small defect or tear in the glove). Gloves that are damaged (e.g., torn, punctured) must be discarded.1 If gloves are damaged during a procedure, the oral health professional should remove and discard them, wash his or her hands immediately, and put on clean gloves. Over-gloving (i.e., putting a clean pair of gloves over a used pair) between patients is not permitted. Gloves should be removed carefully to avoid exposure to microorganisms from patients.2 Wearing gloves does not replace hand washing.

Because of possible latex sensitivity among patients and staff, which can result in allergic reactions ranging from skin rash to anaphylaxis, OOH-funded programs must use non-latex gloves. Symptoms of latex allergy are skin rash; hives; flushing; itching; nasal, eye, or sinus symptoms; asthma; and (rarely) shock.5

Heavy-duty puncture-resistant gloves must be worn along with protective clothing and face protection during clean-up and during preparation of instruments for sterilization. Utility gloves may be decontaminated and used again, but damaged or worn-out gloves should be discarded.1,2