The shelf life of sterilized packaged instruments can be either date-related or event-related; both are acceptable. Date-related shelf life refers to a first-in first-out policy, meaning that the items that are sterilized first are used first, so long as the packages have maintained their integrity.
Event-related shelf life refers to an approach that recognizes that a package and its contents should remain sterile until some event such as tearing or moisture penetration causes the package to become contaminated. All packages should be inspected before use to verify barrier integrity and dryness.
Regardless of the shelf-life practice chosen, all packages should be marked with the date of sterilization and the sterilizer that processed the package. This facilitates easy identification and recall of affected packages should there be a sterilization failure.
Since 1992, OSHA Review, Inc. has provided dental professionals with comprehensive programs to support regulatory compliance and infection control. We are a registered continuing education provider in the state of California, specializing in Dental Practice Act, infection control, and OSHA training.