Dental Infection Control through Instrument Processing

Because your patient protection and infection control are top priorities in our office, every time we see you, or any member of you family, we take special care in supporting successful instrument processing.

How do we insure your safety? 

We do so by consistently, routinely implementing and monitoring the recommended infection control policies and procedures specified by each instrument manufacturer, the United States Food and Drug Administration, those set by the Dental Board of California and CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).

How do we deal with the different sterilization times and temperatures for the many different hand pieces, instruments, and accessories we use for each procedure?

We do the following:

  1.  We carefully read and adhere to the directions for use (DFU) for all of our equipment;
  2.  We group items together that require the same time and temperature and then sterilize in batches;
  3.  We correctly package and load items in the sterilizer.

How do we minimize infection control breaches?

  1. We unequivocally use only those dental hand pieces and attachments, including motors that can withstand heat sterilization;
  2. We sterilize our hand pieces and attachments between each and every patient;
  3. We have an established workflow to minimize breach risks by using a one-directional flow sequence.  This includes the following:
  • Collection and sorting of reusable contaminated items
  • Disposal of non-reusable contaminated items
  • Cleaning via ultrasonics/washer including rinsing and drying
  • Packaging
  • Sterilization
  • Storage in a clean, dry, contamination free area in a covered or closed cabinet

How do we monitor and ensure that the sterilization processes are successful and working as they should?

Our staff monitors these sterilization processes daily, weekly, monthly and yearly by maintaining records.  Our monitoring processes include the following:

  1.  Chemical monitoring – Chemical indicators, are embedded in our sterilization instrument bag pouches and change color when exposed to high temperatures, pressure and time.
  2.  Biological monitoring – Biological indicators (BI), also called spore tests are utilized weekly inside our autoclave because they are the most reliable method of monitoring the success of this essential piece of equipment.  These BI indicators are sent to an independent lab which forwards the results to us immediately, if there are any inconsistencies.
  3. Interval maintenance – Every six months all of our instruments, whether or not they have been used, are subjected to the full sterilization process.

To protect you and all of our patients from exposure to infectious diseases, we follow established best practices and manufacturer’s DFU instructions for reprocessing (cleaning, sterilization and disinfection) all of our instruments.

If you have questions, please just ask.  We are here to help, educate and serve you, our wonderful patients!


Dimensions of Dental Hygiene, July/August 2019, p. 42-45, Eve J. Cuny