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Infection control: How Soon Is Sterilization and Disinfection Done After A Dental Procedure?
The COVID-19 pandemic has made everyone more interested in infection control and the process of sterilization and disinfection at the dental offices. This goes beyond washing your hands and maintaining social distancing. Mainly, you want to make sure the office is clean and free of germs when you enter. Fortunately, your dentist is quick to clean and disinfect the office and supplies.
Infection control process
The sterilization and disinfection timeline differs for office furniture, handheld devices and dental instruments. Dental teams sterilize some items immediately. Others are taken out of use until they are properly disinfected. Patients do not have to worry about dentists using unsterile equipment. Dentists only use clean equipment, even when the country is not in the middle of a pandemic.
Immediate sterilization and disinfection
Many items can be immediately sterilized after a dental procedure. These items include the dental chair and any items patients touch, such as the table next to the chair. Also, dental handpieces are immediately sterilized. The dentist will also use fresh instruments when seeing the next patient. These are not the same instruments used for the previous patient. Dental teams treat patients to a clean office and instruments during appointments.
Sterilization process for dental instruments
Dental instruments must undergo a sterilization process before dentists can use them again. When the procedure is over, the dentist or hygienist gathers the instruments. The team member takes the used instruments to the central processing room. The instruments must be cleaned to remove saliva and debris. Cleaning the instruments makes sterilization more effective.
Once cleaned, the dental team packages the instruments. The sterilization agents can penetrate the packaging. However, once the instruments are sanitized, the packaging keeps them sterile. After the items are packaged, the dental team can begin the sterilization process. Depending on the method, it might take as little as a few minutes to sterilize the instruments. Sometimes, it takes a couple of hours, though.
Storing the sterilized instruments
Sterilized instruments go into storage for future use. Dentists put the instruments in closed or covered cabinets until needed. Sterilized instruments have a long shelf life. These instruments remain sterile if the packaging is not contaminated. Dentists grab them as needed. Until then, the instruments remain in storage.
However, if the packaging is damaged, the item is not sterile. The dentist must clean the instrument once again. It is repackaged and sterilized. Then, the instrument goes back into storage. As long as the packaging stays intact, it remains sterile.
Infection control remains a priority for dentists
The COVID-19 pandemic has put infection control at the forefront of everyone’s minds. However, it is just business as usual for dentists. Dentists understand the importance of sanitizing instruments and office space before each patient. The process begins immediately, although it does take longer to sanitize instruments. Still, patients do not have to worry about ever getting a procedure with an unclean instrument.
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