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School Band Instruments a Bacterial Hot Zone?

In Kids on March 22, 2011 at 4:30 AM

A recent study from the journal General Dentistry, published by the Academy of General Dentistry, highlighted some seemingly alarming statistics when it comes to our kids and the musical instruments they play at school. According to the March 16, 2011 story on WebMD, researchers found 295 different types of bacteria in the 117 spots that were tested, which included the mouthpieces, internal chambers, and instrument cases.

That same WebMD article goes on to mention how several different types of infection-causing staphylococcus bacteria were identified in many of the instruments. Other bacteria — including those associated with diarrhea, food poisoning, osteomyelitis, or bone infection, and other conditions — were also discovered.

Many allergy-inducing yeasts and molds were also found. Several of those molds, according to AGD research, are known to produce mycotoxins, which can be toxic to humans, animals, and plants.

“Most of these instruments have been played by other students, and without the proper sanitation, bacteria and fungi can thrive for weeks and even months after the last use,” study researcher R. Thomas Glass, DDS, PhD, says in a news release. “The results of this study found that wind instruments could act as reservoirs of such diseases,” the researchers write. “Many of these microbes are highly resistant to some or most of the antibiotics normally used in general practice, including methicillin.”

While all of this info does seem concerning to say the least, it’s really pretty obvious – but there’s also an easy fix. Regular cleaning and sanitizing of school band instruments. You’d think that would already be standard operating procedure, the only way to find out is to ask our children and the school.

According to Academy of General Dentistry spokeswoman Cynthia Sherwood, DDS, FAGD, “Instruments should be cleaned after each use to reduce the number of organisms, and cleaning should not be confined to the mouthpiece, since the bacteria invade the entire instrument.”

 By cleaning and sanitizing school band instruments regularly we might be able to significantly reduce the levels of bacteria our kids are exposed to everyday. Kids, schools, bacteria, and germs go hand in hand; but a simple solution can at least combat some of the oral interlopers.

SOURCES: News release, Academy of General Dentistry.Glass, R. General Dentistry, March/April 2011; pp 2-11.


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