Infection control is extremely important in dentistry and dentists should use a clean set of sterilised tools for each and every patient.
In fact, the latest research shows that tooth cavities may be infectious resulting from the spread of cavity-causing bacteria.
There are a variety of different techniques that dentists will employ to prevent the spread of infection through sterilisation:
1. Disposable Tools
Where possible, a dentist will use disposable tools or attachments that are removable from the dental equipment.
Disposable tools are sterilised and sealed in a package that will only be opened for use on a patient.
Once the tool has been used, it is disposed of or thrown away.
Disposable tools are never used on more than one patient and are considered to be one of the most effective means of infection control in both the medical and dental industries.
2. Rubbing Alcohol
A dentist may simply wipe down some of his tools with a solution or agent such as rubbing alcohol.
While these solutions are very effective at killing most types of bacteria and other microorganisms that can cause disease and infection, this is not considered the ideal method of sterilisation.
Some fibres from swabs or other material used to wipe the instruments may be left behind and the technique is not considered to be 100% safe for sterilising dental tools, instruments, and equipment.
However, these solutions are ideal for ensuring that the dental rooms are hygienic and sterile.
Most dentists will have multiple sets of tools and use a new sterilised set for every patient.
The tools are sterilised in an autoclave after use and placed in a plastic sleeve to keep them sterile until they are ready to be used.
An autoclave uses super-heated pressurised steam to effectively eliminate bacteria and other microscopic organisms such as viruses and fungal spores that can result in illness, disease, and infection.
Autoclaving is considered the most effective means of sterilising instruments, tools and equipment used in both the medical and dental fields.
A dentist may use an autoclave numerous times a day or just once or twice depending on how many sets of tools he has and how many patients he sees in one day.
There are multiple benefits to using an autoclave for sterilisation.
The process is extremely quick and takes just a few minutes to complete and is therefore possible to use the technique between each patient if necessary although this is not considered ideal.
The autoclave also delivers instruments and tools that are entirely dry and sterile and require no wiping down or cleaning after sterilisation which can affect the sterile nature of the tools.
4. Other Types of Sterilisation
Boiling is another effective means of sterilisation that a dentist may use.
However, this technique is slow and may not be suitable for use on all types of instruments.
Dry heat solutions such as sterilising ovens are also effective but require high temperatures that once again are not suitable for use on all tools and the process is slower than using an autoclave.
Glass bead sterilisers are not as safe or reliable as a means of sterilisation.
When visiting your dentist, it is imperative to ensure that they use sterile tools and that they don't use the same set or same disposable tool on more than one patient.
You will know whether the tools are sterile if the dentist or dental assistant removes the tool from a sterile plastic sleeve or envelope.
If you are concerned about sterilisation, simply ask your dentist what techniques they use to prevent the spread of disease and infection.
We were originally established in 1952 in order to provide electro-medical products to healthcare professionals across the country.
The company (Medical Equipment Services) was acquired by Medical Equipment Australia in 2009. Since then, we have also expanded into the dental industry.