Much like the medical field, cleaning, sanitation, and sterilization are top priorities in the dental industry. Apart from providing care and treatment to patients, dental professionals must consider the risks present during procedures. These risks include bodily fluid transfer, bloodborne pathogens, and other harmful bacteria that could transfer from patient to worker during a visit.
Non-disposable dental equipment often is in close contact with a patient’s mouth and, if not cleaned correctly, can pose a threat to future patients. For this reason, here’s how to properly clean and sterilize dental tools to mitigate the chance of putting someone’s health in peril.
Wear a Layer of Protection
Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) isn’t just a precaution used during dental work. Workers must also have safety eyewear, mask, smocks, and gloves to protect themselves from microbial contamination and bloodborne pathogens during the cleaning and organizing step of the process.
Pre-Soak Your Tools
Immediately cleaning equipment can be challenging when pressed for time between patients. In this case, pre-soaking tools prevents the buildup of biological debris that can be tough to remove once dry.
To stop the drying from happening, soak the soiled instruments with an approved solution, and allow them to sit for some time.
Thoroughly Clean Before Steaming
After soaking, check your tools for debris that could use a more thorough cleaning approach. Many dental offices will clean their equipment by using an ultrasonic cleaning method that involves sound waves to shake debris loose.
On the other, automated washers also work well in eliminating bacteria on tools. Manual scrubbing can suffice when all else isn’t available; however, this method is less common due to the increased risk of sharps injuries.
Dry & Package the Tools
Before sterilizing, you’ll need to dry your equipment thoroughly to ensure no moisture is present. Then, after drying, pack your dental tools in sealed wraps or pouches to prevent exposure to air upon removal from the sterilizer.
Load Equipment Into the Autoclave
Carefully load your dental tools into the autoclave to start the sterilization step. Remember not to overload the machine to avoid increasing the risk of failed sterilizations. If there are too many tools in the machine, the autoclave will take longer to reach the right temperature and may not contract much of the sterilizing agent.
Knowing how to properly clean and sterilize dental tools is vital to a patient’s well-being and the well-being of providers and assistants. Cleaning also protects your equipment and ensures that it continues to function as intended.