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Disinfection and sterilization are an essential part of maintaining a healthy dental practice and should be one of the key protocols underpinning day to day operations. The reason for this is that proper cleaning, disinfection, and sterilization are the most effective way at preventing the transmission of infectious diseases within the dental environment. Here’s what you need to know about the basic technique that must be used and how to obtain information on the latest practices.

Disinfection refers to the process that eliminates most or all pathogenic organisms with the exception of bacterial spores. This process can usually be completed with liquid chemicals. However, disinfection alone isn’t sufficient to provide a 100% guaranteed clean of the instruments used in dental practice. Instead, the disinfection process must be followed by sterilization. Sterilization is a process that kills all forms of microbial life and must be used to fully clean all non-disposable dental instruments. Since worksurfaces, chairs and similar objects cannot be steam-sterilized, they must be properly cleaned and disinfected to prevent the transmission of diseases.

Since dentistry involves regular contact with bodily fluids including saliva and blood, both of which can harbor a range of dangerous microorganisms, including those responsible for diseases ranging from colds and flu to Hepatitis and HIV, this makes disinfection and sterilization techniques essential for safe practice.

The basic disinfection and sterilization technique

Use PPE before undertaking any cleaning as you will be handling instruments that may have been contaminated. Choose well-fitting gloves, a facemask, eye protection, and impermeable overalls so that no biohazardous material gets onto your skin. Wearing the correct PPE will also prevent you from transmitting any infectious microorganisms onto the equipment you are handling.

Cleaning is the first step of any disinfection and sterilization process. This is because it is necessary to clean away any visible soiling of your instruments which could prevent the disinfection and sterilization from being fully effective. Cleaning, which is recommended in the guidelines from the CDC, can usually be carried out using detergent and hot water, either by hand or using an automated instrument washer, or by using an ultrasonic cleaning device.

Drying. It is essential that you make sure that your instruments are dry before you think about sterilizing them. This is because the sterilizer will only remove the same amount of moisture it puts in as part of the sterilization process. If your instruments go into their packages wet, they will remain wet when you remove them at the end of the process.

Packaging up your instruments before you sterilize them is an important part of the process and must be done properly to ensure that the sterilization process works effectively. Choose packaging that can maintain its integrity well during the sterilization process as this minimizes the risk of bacteria transfer after the equipment has been sterilized.

Sterilize carefully, without overloading your sterilizer and regularly monitoring the effectiveness of the process. Overstacked sterilizers don’t distribute the cleaning solution as effectively and take much longer to get up to the necessary temperature for sterilization. Use chemical indicators on the packaging to check that the right temperatures are being reached and that the steam is fully penetrating the packaging. Weekly checks using biological indicators are also recommended, which proves that your sterilization process is 100% effective.

Staying up to date with disinfection and sterilization techniques

As a dental practice, it is your responsibility to stay up to date with the latest disinfection and sterilization techniques to ensure that your patients and staff are completely safe from infectious diseases. One of the best ways to obtain the most up to date information is to follow the guidelines published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which can be found on their website.


Here at Vero Dental Spa, we are committed to following the very best practices when it comes to every element of the health and safety of our patients and staff. If you would like to discover more about disinfection and sterilization techniques, please speak to our knowledgeable team.