Surgical instruments must be carefully sterilized prior to their use in any medical procedure, in order to protect the safety of the patient. However, healthcare professionals realize that sterilization has applications that extend far beyond the operating room.
In dentistry, a number of techniques have been developed to keep instruments free of microbes and other hazardous bodily fluids. Depending on the dental procedure, some instruments are disposable, while others are meant to be used repeatedly. For those frequently used instruments, this is why autoclaves have become an essential part of any in-office infection control program.
Autoclaves combine high temperature and high pressure over a period of time to disinfect and sterilize, but it’s a process that must properly executed, every time. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends monitoring three types of indicators to ensure successful sterilization.
The use of chemical indicator tape can help determine whether the autoclave has reached proper sterilization temperature by changing color. However, the use of this indicator alone is not a guarantee that the sterilization cycle was effective.
It’s important to monitor temperature, pressure, and cycle duration when validating or using an autoclave. To accomplish this, technicians typically use high-quality data loggers. In fact, there are data logging systems specifically designed for use in autoclaves that provide reporting tools for easy analysis and recordkeeping.
Biological indicators, or spore testing, should be conducted on a weekly basis or after when any change occurs to the process (i.e. packaging, repairs, relocation). Spores are more resistant than the microbial contaminants found on instruments, so their destruction is an indicator of a successful sterilization cycle.
Although the American Dental Association (ADA) and the CDC have teamed up to provide guidelines on infection control, dental practices may be subject to state and local regulations that might impose further regulatory obligations.
For more information or assistance with finding the best data logging system for validating your autoclave(s), call us at (603) 456-2011 or email [email protected].