Sterilization destroys all microbial life including spores. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that any item which can be sterilized, should be sterilized and the method of first choice is steam autoclaving although, chemical vapor, dry heat and ethylene oxide are satisfactory when used correctly. The CDC and ADA recommend weekly spore testing of the sterilizer. A chemical indicator strip placed inside instrument packages is an additional safe guard. Autoclave tape on the outside helps identify packages quickly and easily that have been sterilized. The tape color does not prove that the sterilizer was working properly, only the spore test can verify that.
Chemical (cold) sterilization is not recommended due to the time for achieving sterilization (10 hours) and the monitoring problems of using chemical sterilants. The ability of a chemical to sterilize is lessened by the amount of water and organic material in the solution.
After instruments are scrubbed or run through the ultrasonic (preferred method), they should be rinsed, dried and inspected. Always wear heavy-duty gloves when handling contaminated instruments. Utilize the basket in the ultrasonic. It is not permissible to reach hands into the container to retrieve instruments. “Operating” checks should be performed monthly on the ultrasonic. Instruments should be packaged in paper, sterilization tubing, or bagged or wrapped cassettes and sterilized appropriately. Most manufacturers of sterilizing equipment will have directions for packaging instruments in their operators’ manual- As a general rule, always use recommended packaging and loading techniques of the sterilizer manufacturer. If too many instruments are placed into the sterilizer, the appropriate heat and steam may not reach all instruments and they will not be properly sterilized.
Check the manufacturer’s recommendations for lubricating handpieces and prophy angles before and after sterilization.
Do not store clean and contaminated instruments in the same area.
Note: The storage, usage, or cleaning of food, dishes, cosmetics including lip balm, or the handling of contact lens is prohibited in the sterilization area.