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Dental's Dirty Little Secret

The Covid-19 pandemic created many issues for hospitals, surgery centers, schools, and small businesses such as dental offices. The infection control focus has been on reducing cross-contamination due to droplets and aerosols. Dental offices have 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. Many dental assistants and dental technicians are undertrained for handling the reprocessing of surgical instruments. So much so that a newly published book authored 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. But, new stories are written every year regarding the cross-contamination due to surgical instruments. Thousands of patients have been affected by ineffective decontamination processes.

A Tennessee dentist didn't sterilize equipment, and now his patients need HIV tests

Dublin VA reports no new infections after veterans were potentially exposed to diseases

Dental patients sought for follow up due to incomplete sterilization process
Iowa dentist accused of "filthy" office and patient retaliation fights license revocation

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

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.? 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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