The American Dental Association and Centers for Disease Control recommend that dentists regularly monitor their dental turbines and other equipment for proper sterilization. Aside from this, incorporating a thorough sterilizer monitoring program ensures the safety of your patients and sterilized equipment. There are several ways you can tell if your sterilizers are functioning properly. Here are some of the guidelines that can help you determine if your sterilizers are working or not.
1. Mechanical Indicators
One of the first things you will need to record is mechanical indicators. This means you will need to record the temperature, cycle time, and pressure displayed by your sterilizer during each load and meet the requirements.
2. Chemical Indicators
Chemical indicators are a great way to determine if your equipment works. These chemical indicators will change color after being exposed to a successful sterilization environment. If they do not change color, it means that your sterilizer did not provide the necessary environment. In these cases, you will need to resterilize any equipment in the load.
When using these, ensure that you get the proper chemical indicator for the type of sterilizer you have to ensure accurate results. Even though this seems like the simplest option, remember that this does not remove the necessity of performing regular mechanical and biological indicator tests on your sterilizers.
3. Biological Indicators
You can perform monitoring for biological indicators through in-office spore monitoring strips or a mail-in monitoring program. Anytime you receive a positive test through one of these methods, it means that your sterilizer has failed. When this happens, you need to remove the sterilizer from service, review your process to ensure no operator error, correct the errors, and resterilize your dental handpieces. If there were any errors in your process, you can retest after correction and return a sterilizer with a new negative spore test to service.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends monitoring your sterilizers for biological indicators of a problem every week. If your state board’s guidelines require that you perform this check more often, you should follow that recommendation. You will need to keep a log of how often you perform spore tests. Your state board will set the requirements for how long it is necessary to keep test results.
Part of being a responsible dentist is monitoring your sterilizers. By following these recommendations, you can ensure that you stay on top of monitoring and providing patients with thoroughly sterilized equipment.