8 Essential Steps for Sterilizing Dental Instruments
One of your most important responsibilities as a dental professional is to properly sterilize your dental instruments.
Step 1: Transport Instruments to the Processing Area
After use, transport your contaminated instruments in a closed, leak-proof container to a safe, separate processing area.
Step 2: Sort Instruments and Dispose of Waste Properly
Separate disposables from reusable instruments. Dispose of disposable instruments safely and correctly. Soak reusable instruments that can’t be processed immediately. Discard any waste in a biohazard waste bin.
Step 3: Clean Instruments in an Ultrasonic Cleaner
Inspect reusable instruments for debris and dispose of the debris properly (see Step 2). Clean instruments in an ultrasonic cleaner (preferred), instrument washer, or by hand while wearing proper protection.
Step 4: Rinse and Dry Instruments
Rinse instruments and then dry them by patting them or using an instrument dryer.
Step 5: Package Instruments
Place instruments in a sealed package or pouch, unless you're going to use them immediately after sterilization.
Step 6: Sterilize Instruments in a Sterilizing Machine
Sterilize instruments using steam autoclaving, dry-heat, or chemical vapor machines. Check out this post for a review on the different types of dental sterilizers.
If you're currently in search of an autoclave, read this guide for helpful tips on finding the right one for your practice.
Step 7: Store Instruments in a Dry, Protected Area
Step 8: Review Sterilizing Process for Quality Assurance
Routinely verify that your instruments are being sterilized properly using:
Sterilizer readouts and gauges
Chemical indicator testing
Which Dental Instruments Need to Be Sterilized?
The Center for Disease Control has divided instruments used in dental practice into 3 categories based on their use: critical, semi-critical, and noncritical.
Of these these 3 categories, critical and semi-critical instruments should be sterilized. Noncritical instruments only need to be disinfected.
Protecting Your Patients
As you carefully ensure that these 8 steps are followed in your practice, you'll be successful in fulfilling your responsibility to protect the health and safety of your patients.