If you use and re-use a Sharpie marker or a wax pencil to mark wires for detail bends YOU ARE WRONG. There is no way around it and all the weak rationalizations of the “self sterilizing” ability of markers is total crap. Stop it. Now.

I know you were told by your esteemed professors in residency that this practice was acceptable. They are wrong in this as they are in so many things. Citing their example is no defense.

I also hear you saying that disposable wax match sticks “aren’t as good as Sharpies for marking wire” but the fact that one product doesn’t live up to your standards doesn’t justify the re-use of a gross marking pencil that cannot be properly sterilized or an even more disgusting Sharpie on multiple patients. Stop it. Now. Seriously. There is no reasonable defense for this practice and you owe it to your patients to protect their health. Reusing wax pencils or Sharpies is just as bad if not worse than re-using gloves.

7 thoughts on “Sharpies Have No Place In The Mouth

  1. The obvious question: favorite alternative?

  2. I researched this topic in my residency. I never published the results because it wasn’t required in my residency and I didn’t make the effort to submit my final writeup, but my research showed that permanent markers (I tested Sharpie and Marks a Lot) do self-sterilize the tip almost immediately. I am happy to share the results with anyone that would like to see it.

  3. Dr. Burris,

    What do you use? Do you use the wax match sticks?

    I know we need to be better in this area. I’m looking for a reasonable alternative.


  4. As long as you are willing to use a sharpie in the mouth of a patient with Hep C and “almost immediately” put it in the mouth of your spouse or your child then go for it… That is as long as you don’t mind a mom calling you out about it in the office and on FB when they see you doing it. Recycled brackets are sterile when they come back from the factory and we reuse silverware at restaurants but that didn’t stop Reader’s Digest from blistering orthodontists about recycling brackets. Big risk for very little upside.

  5. Ugh. I didn’t even know this was a thing. I just set the wire in the brackets, place and hold a bird beak where I want yo place a bend, pull the wire out, and bend it. No biggie.

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