Sterilization in dentistry is very important, and dentists and dental assistants typically clean and disinfect most surfaces in a their offices and treatment rooms to help prevent the spread of germs. Disposable dental supplies are also used whenever possible. Tools that are not disposable are generally scrubbed by hand and placed in a machine known as an dental autoclave. This machine then disinfects the tools by spraying them with very high-pressure steam, which kills most micro-organisms. Any tools that can not be subjected to high heat or moisture are usually disinfected with chemicals. There are some FAQ about dental sterilization:
1.Q Why is it important to package instruments for sterilization and storage?
A Packaging cleaned instruments prior to placing them in the sterilizer is a standard of care that protects instruments and maintains their sterility until they are ready for use on a patient. Unprotected instruments may be re-contaminated with dust and spatter or by coming into contact with any number of non-sterile surfaces during transport, storage, tray set-up, and operatory set-up.
2. Q What is the acceptability on glass bead sterilizers?
A Hot salt/glass bead sterilizers are not acceptable for the sterilization of items between patients. The endodontic(endo motor) dry heat sterilizer (glass bead sterilizer) is no longer cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA Dental Device Classification Panel has stated that the glass bead sterilizer presents “a potential unreasonable risk of illness or injury to the patient because the device may fail to sterilize dental instruments adequately.”
3. Q The instructions for the electrosurgery tips my practices uses say to “cold sterilize” them. What cold sterilization methods does the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approve for use?
A “Cold sterilization” entails the use of chemicals that FDA classifies as high-level disinfectants/sterilants. Chemicals in this category are required to have FDA clearance for their claims.
Ideally, all items that enter the patient’s mouth and come into contact with oral tissues should be heat sterilized. If this is not feasible because the device or instrument cannot withstand the heat sterilization process, a high-level disinfectant should be used.
The FDA maintains a list of products that have received clearance as chemical sterilants. The list includes information regarding proper contact time, active ingredients and reuse or shelf life. Always read instructions carefully before using a chemical germicide.