Today’s busy dental practices face a serious challenge: to maintain or increase productivity while ensuring that patient safety remains a top priority. At times, these may seem like incompatible goals. Advances in processing dental equipment, however, have empowered practices to develop safer processes while realizing efficiencies and ultimately, saving money.
Effective and efficient infection control in the dental office is essential for the safety of patients and to ensure that productivity does not suffer. Infection control programs all include the cleaning and sterilization of reusable dental instruments and devices. Care must be taken by the dental healthcare professional to ensure that all instruments are cleaned prior to sterilization, and that this is carried out in a safe manner to avoid injury and puncture wounds.
A cleaning and sterilization process that meets ADA and CDC guidelines is vital to an effective infection control program. Streamlining of this process requires an understanding of proper methods, materials, and devices. Many methods of instrument reprocessing are available. Use of a complete system that encompasses and fulfills all elements that are critical maximizes efficiency and minimizes risks.
Closed cassette systems provide a more efficient and safer way to process, sterilize and organize instruments in a dental office- these eliminate manual steps during instrument reprocessing such as hand scrubbing and time-consuming sorting of instruments, thereby improving safety and increasing efficiency.
To prevent accidental injury with the contaminated instruments, special handling should be used to transport the instruments to the cleaning and sterilization area. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that, “Contaminated instruments should be handled carefully to prevent exposure to sharp instruments that can cause percutaneous injury. Instruments should be placed in an appropriate container at the point of use to prevent percutaneous injuries during transport to the instrument processing area.”
The fine tactile sensitivity needed during dental procedures is not necessary during instrument cleaning and sterilization; therefore, heavy-duty gloves pose no problem in this regard. Additionally, nitrile utility gloves are available in a variety of sizes, allowing a more secure fit.