Instrument processing, work flow and sterility assurance

The overall goal of this article is to provide the reader with information on instrument processing requirements and the methods for instrument processing.

A peer-reviewed publication written by Eve Cuny, MS and Fiona M. Collins, BDS, MBA, MA

Educational Objectives

The overall goal of this article is to provide the reader with information on instrument processing requirements and the methods for instrument processing. Upon completion of this course, the reader will be able to do the following:

1. List and describe the CDC guidelines for instrument processing in the dental office setting
2. List and describe the flow of instrument processing, as well as the considerations involved
3. List and describe the types of sterilizers available for use in the dental office, the use of cassettes during instrument processing, and the considerations involved in selecting these.
4. List and describe the purpose of sterility assurance and the tests required to monitor and document sterility assurance.

Abstract

Government agencies regulate and make recommendations on instrument processing and occupational safety. There are a number of requirements and necessary steps involved in instrument processing, including preparation, cleaning and packaging of instruments for sterilization. The use of cassettes reduces the risk of exposure injuries for the operator, while simplifying and streamlining the process. There is a variety of instrument sterilizers for dental office settings including steam sterilizers (autoclaves), chemiclaves and dry heat sterilizers. Each has different features, advantages and disadvantages that must be considered when selecting sterilization equipment for your practice. Monitoring sterilization processes for sterility assurance requires the regular use of mechanical, chemical and biological indicators to assure that these processes and the equipment are providing effective sterilization. Sterility assurance monitoring must be documented to show compliance with regulations governing your practice.

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