When you’re sitting in the chair, waiting for the your dentist, you may notice all those dental tools laid out on the table. It’s reasonable for a patient who sees tools that will be going into their mouth to wonder how each tool is sterilized. So, you’re not alone!
The American Dental Association, working with the Centers for Disease Control, sets guidelines for dental tool sterilization. Various tools are broken down into three distinct categories, each of which is treated differently based on risk.
The first category is 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. Also called autoclaving: An autoclave is a pressure chamber used to carry out industrial processes requiring elevated temperature and pressure different to ambient air pressure. Autoclaves are used in medical applications to perform sterilization.
For semi-critical tools that still come in contact with mucous membranes or non-intact skin – such as mirrors and dental trays for impressions – the ADA recommends that these, too, should 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.
Finally, non-critical tools that only come in contact 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.
Dr. Bartz is very aware of the risk that non-sterilized instruments pose to your oral health, and work diligently to keep a safe and sterile workspace, which includes safe and sterile tools. Proper safety procedures greatly reduce patient risk, and your dentist happily complies with the most recent ADA guidelines for managing tools in a safe manner.
You can also find dozens of ‘how it’s done’ videos on YouTube. Try searching for autoclave or dental instrument sterilization.
If you have any concerns, do not be afraid to ask Dr. Bartz about the tools & process next time you’re in the office. However, have not fear! The instruments they will be using on you have been throughly cleaned and disinfected!
For more information on oral health, contact Dr. Bartz at (708) 430-4440 or visit our website at bartzandbartzdental.com.
Dr. Bartz also welcomes patients from Chicago, Orland Park, Burbank and Palos Hills.