What is sterilisation?

  • Sterilisation is the process of removing all traces of bacteria and other germs. It is an extremely important process, which helps to reduce the risk of infection or cross contamination and prevents the spread of infections and illnesses not only from one patient to another, but also from the patient to the doctor or  staff or vice versa.

Why is sterilisation important?

Sterilizing medical equipment is the most importance in the medical field. Thousands of patients die every year or are infected with disease because medical equipment was not properly sterilized. Complications surface in many surgeries due to improper sterilization.

How sterilization of instruments aids in treatment?

  • Prevents the Growth of Diseases:

Used instrument gets contaminated with bacteria. If left unchecked or not disinfected properly, then it is highly likely that bacteria will grow.

  • Prevents the Spread of Diseases:

If surgical equipment is not properly sterilized, there are chances that the next patient being treated with the same tools can be exposed to a disease the previous patient had.

What protocol must be followed by a dental clinic to ensure proper sterilisation?

All instruments that need to be sterilised, should first be scrubbed and washed with detergent and water. This should then be followed by placing the instruments in an ultrasonic cleaner which effectively removes debris or dried blood stains etc that may adhere to the dental instruments in spite of washing. Once the instruments are clean and dry, they are then placed and sealed in specially pouches. To maintain the sterilization, ideally sterilised instruments should be stored in a UV chamber for future use.

Does the dentist need to change his/her gloves for every patient?

Every dental care provider should use new gloves for each and every patient. For procedures that are likely to involve splash or spatter, including the dental team.

Why it is necessary for dental care provider to wear mask?

To avoid cross contamination from doctor to patient or patient to doctor including auxiliary staff, the doctor as well as assisting staff should preferably wear masks while working on patient.

  • Disposable instruments like syringe, needles etc can be used reused in other patients?
  • Unless the instruments can be sterilised it should not be reused. Especially disposable instruments are supposed to be disposed off as soon as its use on one patient is over.  

Where are the instruments sterilised in dental operatory?           

Ideally there should be a separate room or zone in the dental office that is completely dedicated to the disinfection of instruments.

I’m not sure if the dental clinic I go to follows the protocol regarding safety and sterilisation. How can I find out?

Just ask!! If you have any doubts or questions regarding your treatment or the protocols followed by the clinic, you have every right to ask your dentist about it and even see the equipment that is used. If you know that the proper equipment is being used and the procedure is being followed, you can put your mind at ease and rest assured that all the instruments being used on you are sterilised.

Does sterilisation is a costly affair?

Yes, if proper protocol for sterilisation is followed then it does cost, but not more than the protection we get from the risk of exposure to secondary infection. So pay attention that the health care provider you are visiting is following optimum sterilisation protocol and don’t mind paying for the same.

Do sterilisation by boiling is sufficient?

The ideal temperature for killing the micro organisms is 121o-132°C under pressure. A general cycle is 20 minutes at 121 °C at 15 psi. Boiling is not the ideal process for sterilization as it gives a limited sterilization against Micro-organisms & Spores.

So what is the ideal method for sterilization?

  • There are many methods of sterilization that are used in dentistry but the optimum sterilization is achieved by Class B autoclaves which can sterilize any kind of object / instrument.