STERILIZATION AND DISINFECTION
Concerns about transmitting infectious agents, such
as hepatitis virus (HBV) and human immunodeficiency
virus (HIV), have caused the dental community to
become more aware of the need to sterilize and disinfect
instruments, materials, and other equipment to protect
providers and patients. In this chapter, we will explain
the sterilization and disinfection process with which
you, as a dental assistant, will be involved. We will also
give you an overview of the procedures so you can
effectively carry out your duties.
The highest level of contamination control is
sterilization because it results in the total destruction of
all forms of microbial life. A variety of sterilization
methods and many types of liquid chemical
disinfecting agents are available. Heat sterilization is
preferable for all equipment and materials that can
withstand high temperatures.
Heat sterilization is
effective, relatively easy to use, comparatively
inexpensive, and readily monitored for effectiveness.
Sterilization and the availability of sterile products for
use in dental healthcare delivery depend on many
factors. The most critical factors are as follows:
Proper and efficient sterilization facility design
Sound infection control practices before, during,
and after sterilization
The effectiveness of the actual sterilization
Dental Treatment Facilities (DTFs) must have a
central sterilization room (CSR) or a central
sterilization area. Centralization of sterilization
activity is safer, provides more efficient use of
materials and personnel, and standardizes execution
and monitoring procedures.
We will explain the
critical design elements that make up a CSR area next.
Dedicated Work Areas
The design and outfitting of a sterilization area
must include work areas for receiving, cleaning,
processing, sterilizing, storing, and issuing of
instruments and equipment.
Functional Flow of the Sterilization
Most large dental clinics will have a permanent
CSR technician assigned to the sterilization area. As
part of your indoctrination, you may be temporarily
assigned in the CSR so you can learn your commands
sterilization processes. All CSRs should have a
functional flow system where equipment, instruments,
and materials are first introduced into the receiving
area, and work their way through to the issue area in a
specific order. Figure 10-1 illustrates a CSR
functional flow chart that all personnel should adhere
to while working in the CSR.
Once you are physically in an area of the CSR, you
must not go backwards or skip an area. This will
compromise the entire sterilization process. Do not
process contaminated instruments, materials, or
equipment in an area that may contaminate the
Figure 10-1.CSR functional flow chart.