Dental veneers are common restorations that are used to change the size, shape, or color of teeth. These can be made of porcelain or resin and are most commonly used on the front teeth. When these restorations are placed, there is a margin between the tooth and the porcelain or resin material. This can leave…
Infection control: The Guidelines for the Sterilization and Disinfection of Dental Instruments at San Dimas Family and Sedation Dentistry
The sterilization and disinfection of all equipment and instruments are a part of the infection control protocol all dentists follow. While this has always been important, the COVID-19 pandemic has put it at the front of your mind. Now, you want to know what your dentist does to prevent the transmission of diseases. Your dentist follows a strict protocol based on CDC guidelines. Go over the steps so you will understand what happens behind the scenes.
Sterilization and disinfection protocol
The CDC requires that dentists have a central processing area for sterilizing instruments. This practice must divide the area into sections to prevent cross-contamination. There need to be specific sections for decontamination and packaging. A third section for sterilization and storage is also needed. Dentists bring instruments to the processing area for sterilization and disinfection.
Dental teams wear personal protection equipment when in the central processing area. This prevents the teams from getting bacteria on themselves. It also helps them avoid contaminating the sterilized equipment. This extra layer of protection is critical for infection control.
Dentists clean the instruments before sanitizing them. They use enzymatic cleaners or water and detergent to clean the tools. Cleaning removes material such as organic residue from the instruments. That increases the effectiveness when sterilizing the equipment. After cleaning the items, the dentists pack them in rigid containers.
Then, dentists move the items to the sterilization section. The sterilization method depends on the type of instrument. Dentists have protocols for critical and semi-critical instruments. Following the guidelines is necessary for infection control.
Sterilization and disinfection of critical instruments
Critical instruments include scalers and scalpels. These instruments penetrate the bone or soft tissue. Dental teams must sterilize the items after each use. The CDC requires that dental practices use heat sterilization for infection control. Dentists also have the option of using single-use disposable critical instruments. They throw the tools away after a single use, so sterilization is not necessary.
Sterilizing semi-critical instruments
Semi-critical instruments touch oral tissue but do not penetrate tissue or bone. These instruments include dental impression trays and dental mirrors. The risk of transmission is lower with semi-critical instruments. Still, semi-critical instruments must be high-level disinfected, or heat sterilized after every use. Once sterilized, dentists can use the tools again.
Dentists use sterilization monitoring to ensure that instruments are properly sterilized. Practices have access to mechanical, biological and chemical indicators. Most dentists use a combination of indicators. Dentists monitor sterilization regularly and fix problems immediately.
Dentists do not sterilize disposable devices. These devices are meant to be used one time only. Syringe needles, plastic orthodontic brackets and other single-use items cannot be properly cleaned. Dentists dispose of these items after using them a single time.
Dentists play a critical role in infection control
Dentists are on the front lines of infection control by properly sterilizing instruments. Following the CDC’s guidelines for sterilization limits the spread of infectious diseases. This is always critical, including during the COVID-19 outbreak. With proper sterilization, patients are not exposed to bacteria or viruses during procedures.
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