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Dental's Dirty Little Secret Unsterile Instruments

Updated: May 29

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Thought of the Week

The COVID-19 pandemic created many issues for hospitals, surgery centers, schools, and small businesses such as dental offices. There was a refocus on infection control. Cross-contamination due to droplets and aerosols became the main focus to protect patients and workers. Dental offices employed resources to adapt to the new environment, such as aerosol reduction devices, UV disinfection, and chemical sprayers. However, an unknown threat to most patients lies in the sterilization practices of their providers; resulting in contamination via unsterile instruments.

Eliminating Unsterile Instruments in Dental Offices

Many dental assistants and dental technicians are undertrained in handling the reprocessing of surgical instruments. So much so that a newly published book by Nancy Chobin was released recently," "The Basics of Sterilization for Dental Facilities."

You might think, what's the big deal? The mouth isn't very clean anyway. However, new stories are written yearly regarding cross-contamination due to improper reprocessing of surgical instruments. Thousands of patients have been affected by ineffective decontamination processes. Here are a few stories about unsterile dental instruments:

Patients are at risk for acquiring blood-borne viruses, including hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Complete a Risk Assessment

To curve this trend, in-depth training for the reprocessing of instrumentation needs to occur, along with continual training on an annual basis. Risk assessments should be completed annually, not only for infection control issues but in particular for sterilization processes. Sterilizer equipment maintenance should also be routinely completed.

As a patient, when I visit my local dentist, I survey my surroundings. Where do they process the instruments? What does the environment look like? What does the instrument packaging look like? Does it have the proper indicators or not? Is the seal intact etc.? Are the instruments sterile or unsterile? You can learn a lot just by observing your surroundings. And, if something looks amiss, speak up and ask questions.

At Evolved Sterile Processing, our consultants have a greater focus on sterile processing. With our decades of experience, we will help you develop better processes and educational resources for your staff.

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