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Cleaning Contaminated Dental Instruments Prior to Sterilization

According to the DBC’s Infection Control Regulation, contaminated “critical and semi-critical instruments shall be cleaned and sterilized before use…” Instrument cleaning should be performed using manual or automated processes according to instrument manufacturer’s instructions.

If instruments are not cleaned before being sterilized, residual debris on the surface can prevent heat or chemical vapor from contacting the surface area, thereby hindering downstream sterilization, leading to potential cross contamination and/or failure of the device. According to the American Dental Association (ADA) 2020 Technical Report Guidance on Method Development and Validation of Cleaning Processes for Dental Instruments, “if an instrument cannot be cleaned using a validated method, then it should be labeled as single-use and should not be reused”.

Dental healthcare personnel (DHCP), donning the proper personal protective equipment, should clean contaminated reusable instruments with hands-free, automated cleaning equipment such as an ultrasonic unit. If manual scrubbing is necessary, a long-handled brush should be used to keep hands away from the contaminated sharp instruments. DHCP should NEVER reach hands into containers holding contaminated instruments. Rather, employees should use engineering controls (e.g., forceps or tongs) to retrieve these devices.

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.

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