"Are Those Instruments New?" A Few Words on Sterilization

By Catherine M. Fascilla, D.D.S.

Being a dentist, I have on occasion been asked that question as I tear open a package of instruments. Some patients, being new to the office and unfamiliar to our sterilization methods have asked if I purchase new instruments for each patient. The answer to that question is of course, no. Our instruments are carefully wiped, soaked in an ultrasonic chemical bath, rinsed, packaged and sterilized between patients. The wrapping keeps the instruments sterile until the package is opened.

Dental offices use various methods to sterilize and disinfect. Disinfection Kills most of the harmful organisms while sterilization destroys all of them. Common acceptable sterilization methods include an autoclave that uses steam under pressure, dry heat in an oven-like environment and chemical vapor sterilization.

Disinfection procedures are used on surfaces and equipment that cannot be removed for cleaning and sterilization, such as counter tops, drawer handles, X-ray unit heads and light handles. Disinfection is done in the treatment room between patients to assure that the room is clean for each patient.

For your protection “universal precautions” are used. In other words, the same infection control methods are used every time for every patient.

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