When you’re waiting for the dentist to begin your check-up, have you ever looked around at all of the equipment lying around? It’s kind of crazy how much stuff has the potential to enter your mouth at some point in the visit. But it isn’t crazy to wonder how each tool is sterilized.
The American Dental Association sets guidelines for dental tool sterilization. Various tools are broken down into three distinct categories, each of which is treated differently based on risk.
Critical tools. These are tools that may penetrate tissue or bone, such as scalpels, forceps, and scalers. Because they’re penetrating into sterile tissue, it’s absolutely crucial that these tools be sterilized regularly – after each and every use. The ADA requires that these tools be sterilized using steam under pressure, dry heat, or chemical heat in an autoclave.
Semi-critical tools. Those tools that come in contact with mucous membranes or non-intact skin, like mirrors and dental trays for impressions, should also be sterilized after every use. However, in some cases where sterilization isn’t practical, it’s permissible for these tools to be disinfected with an EPA certified high-level disinfectant.
Non-critical tools. Tools that only come in contact with skin, such as x-ray components and blood pressure cuffs, have a relatively low risk of transmitting infection. However, they are still cleaned between patients with a medium-level or low-level disinfectant, suitable for hospital use.
If you have any concerns, do not be afraid to ask Dr. Bartz about the tools and cleaning process next time you’re in the office.
If you would like to find out more about instrument sterilization practices, contact Dr. Bartz in Oak Lawn, IL at 708-430-4440 to schedule a consultation. Or visit www.bartzandbartzdental.com for additional information.
Dr. Bartz proudly serves Oak Lawn, Chicago, Orland Park, Burbank, Palos Hills and all surrounding areas.