Sterilization (according to the American Dental Association)
According to the Centers for Disease Control, dental instruments are classified into three categories depending on the risk of transmitting infection. The classifications of critical, semicritical and noncritical are based on the following criteria:
1) Critical instruments are those used to penetrate soft tissue or bone, or enter into or contact the bloodstream. They should be sterilized after each use. Sterilization is achieved by steam under pressure and temperature (autoclaving).
2) Semi-critical instruments are those that do not penetrate soft tissues or bone but contact mucous membranes or non-intact skin. These devices also should be sterilized after each use. In some cases, however, sterilization is not feasible and, therefore, high-level disinfection is appropriate.
3) Non-critical instruments are those that come into contact only with intact skin such as external components of x-ray heads, blood pressure cuffs. Such devices have a relatively low risk of transmitting infection; and, therefore, may be reprocessed between patients by disinfection.
Processing Instruments: All critical and semicritical dental instruments that are heat stable should be sterilized after each use by steam under pressure (autoclaving). Before sterilization or high-level disinfection, instruments should soak in water or disinfectant/detergent as soon as possible after use to prevent drying of debris.
Sterilization is recommended for all high-speed dental handpieces, low-speed handpiece components used intraorally. It is important to follow the manufacturers’ instructions for cleaning, lubrication and sterilization procedures to ensure the effectiveness of the sterilization process.
Packing the instruments in sterilized packs and opening this packs immediately before the procedure is important for the success of the sterilization process
Proper functioning of sterilization cycles should be verified by biological or chemical indicators.