Artificial Nails in Dentistry
Artificial Nails are not recommended for the dental care worker due to their increased potential in harbouring pathogenic organisms. Various studies have shown that acrylic and artificial nails harbour more pathogenic organisms than natural fingernails. These organisms, in some cases, can be transmitted and therefore compromise the health of our patients and their families.
The World Health Organisation, on their website, advise that artificial nails are not recommended for health care workers due to them being more likely to harbour gram negative pathogens, as compared to natural fingernails, both before and after hand-washing. A study by McNeil,et al, 2001 showed this by comparing the differences in microflora on the nails of healthcare workers wearing artificial nails compared with control workers with native nails. They also assessed the effect on the microflora by hand cleansing with antimicrobial soap or alcohol-based gel. The study concluded that significantly more health care workers with artificial nails had pathogens remaining after hand-cleansing with soap or gel, compared to the control group.
A similar study by Hedderwick, et al, 2000, set out to determine the differences in the identity and quantity of microbial flora from health care workers wearing artificial nails compared with control workers with native nails. They found that artificial fingernails were more likely to harbour pathogens, especially gram negative bacilli and yeasts, than native nails. The longer that artificial nails are worn, the more likely that a pathogen was isolated. The study concluded that current recommendations restricting artificial fingernails in certain health care settings appear justified.
The full text for the above articles, as well as similar ones, can be viewed here.
The WHO website also has related publications to view and is a good resource for further information.
Updated: Nov 2007