Sterilisation and Infection Control
Or; what happens between you leaving the surgery with a pile of dirty instruments in your wake and the next patient coming in.
The best way we have to ensure patient and staff health and safety is to assume that we are all infected with some kind of hideous, easily transmissible, human race destroying plague. With this in mind we use the most up to date sterilisation technology and infection control methods.
Hand cleaning - the basis of all infection control. We clean our hands before and after wearing gloves. We use alcohol based hand sanitising solutions and good old soap and water.
After each and every patient the surgery is disinfected and ‘reset’. Regardless of what treatment took place the room is cleaned in exactly the same way. When you consider the number of things the dentist, assistant and patient have come in contact with in a standard appointment, it’s a lot of stuff and surfaces! It takes around 15 minutes for an experienced assistant working efficiently to reset a surgery which is why we swap from one surgery to the other to allow time for thorough cleaning.
All equipment that has been in contact with the dentist, assistant and/or patient is either disposed of, wiped down with a special cleaning solution or autoclaved.
Disposal: We throw away a lot of stuff - plastic covers, paper bibs, cotton rolls, gauze, drill bits, sharps (anything pointy), gloves, masks, cups….
Wipe down: A neutral detergent is used with reinforced paper wipes on all the heavy bits such as the dental chair, machinery and benches. To speed up the cleaning process we use single-use plastic barriers which are quick to remove and replace. Safety glasses are not disposed of but are soaked in a solution before rinsing and drying.
Autoclave: a really expensive box that uses steam under pressure to kill any bacteria or viruses. Dirty instruments are first given a thorough scrub with specially designed brushes in a hospital grade cleaning fluid. They are then placed in an ultrasonic bath to remove the microscopic traces of material that may be left on the item. The instruments are then rinsed, inspected, dried and packaged ready to go in the autoclave. An autoclave sterilisation cycle takes around 40 minutes so we run two autoclaves to keep up with our needs.
We run validation tests every day to ensure our sterilisation equipment is working correctly and checklists to ensure our staff are working correctly.
The autoclaves run a special cycle at the start of the day to test their pressure and heat. During the day indicator devices are run within each load to check the cycle runs to specification, as well as printouts of pressures and temperatures.
We hope you can tell that we are very proud of our procedures and confident of our abilities. Feel free to watch us clean up or ask any questions.
We laugh that we only hire assistants with OCD but we aren’t really kidding. We know that attention to detail every time is vitally important to everyone.