Any bacteria on your hands have the potential to enter into your mouth and bloodstream, which can lead to health problems and illnesses. Next week, December 4-10, is National Hand Washing Awareness Week, and Dr. Locke wants you to remember the importance of washing your hands so that you can enjoy the holidays in good health.

Why is hand washing important?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 80 percent of infectious diseases are spread by touch. During the next few months of cold and flu season, washing your hands often and thoroughly may prevent contamination. According to the CDC, “…the most important thing you can do to keep from getting sick is to wash your hands.”

How does hand washing affect oral health?

Throughout the day, your hands are exposed to innumerable bacteria as you interact with other people and items people touched. If you don’t clean the bacteria from your hands before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, you could end up with those bacteria in your body. If some bacteria get into your mouth, it may cause a lip or gum infection. If you get a cut around your mouth or face, the bacteria can spread into your bloodstream and cause other bodily infections and complications.

How to properly wash your hands

Many people quickly run their hands under water and say they’re clean — but they aren’t. Here is the correct way to wash your hands.

  • Wet hands with warm water and add soap.
  • Rub your hands together to lather and scrub front and back for at least 20 seconds. A good timer is to sing “Happy Birthday” from beginning to end twice.
  • Weave your fingers together to wash the webbing where they meet one another.
  • Run your thumb and forefinger up and down each finger to get all the crevices clean.
  • Wash your wrists and arms half-way up to your elbow with soapy, warm water.
  • Rinse off the soap thoroughly with warm water.
  • Dry your hands with a clean, disposable paper towel.
  • Turn off the faucet with a towel to prevent re-contamination.

If a sink is not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can disinfect your hands.

Hand Washing Awareness Week is always observed during the first full week of December, which is also a peak time for colds and flus. Keeping your hands clean will help protect your mouth and body from getting sick or infected. Visit Dr. Locke to help stay strong this winter. Contact our dental office in Waco, Texas at (254) 776-4888 to schedule an appointment.