This past weekend there was a news report about an oral surgeon in the Midwest who was accused of contaminating several thousand patients and putting them at risk for HIV and Hepatitis exposure. Basic OSHA protocols were ignored and it called into question what other dentists do to protect their patients from these hazards. I am writing this information to help alleviate any concerns our patients may have about the care and sterilization of our instruments. We take OSHA protocol very seriously, and I wanted to show current photographs of some of the things we do to keep you safe.
This weekend I ran a test that is generally performed monthly that tests the efficacy of our autoclave, the machine that we use to sterilize our instruments and kits. A vial filled with hard to kill bacteria is sterilized and allowed to incubate with a control for 24 hours. The yellow vial was purple and turns yellow when the autoclave has killed these bacteria. As you can see in the photograph, with the date on my phone showing it is current, the yellow vial on the right shows we have an effective autoclave. The results are then recorded in our logbook.
In addition to this monthly test, we have other foolproof daily indicators that show us that the instruments we use are clean. These indicators ensure that we do not accidently confuse a clean kit from a dirty one. Every instrument and kit is placed in an ultrasonic cleaner with disinfectant that helps remove any gross debris. This ultrasonic cleaner is emptied and cleaned daily. I took a photo so people can see what it looks like at the end of the day when it is cleaned.
Every kit is removed from the ultrasonic, dried, wrapped in blue paper, sealed and labeled with a special masking tape. As you can see in the picture, the masking tape is beige before it runs through the autoclave.
After the kit is cleaned, the masking tape develops black stripes that show that the machine reached the desired temperature. Smaller instruments are placed in sterilization pouches that turn black in the bottom corner to indicate that they have also been sterilized.
There are other paper indicators that we place in every kit that give us even more feedback that the instruments have been appropriately sterilized. Once they are clean, they are immediately placed in a clean storage cabinet and not opened until they are moved into the operatory before each cleaning or dental procedure.
Every needle, used drill bit that can’t be sterilized, or broken instrument is placed into a sharp’s container that is professionally removed from the office quarterly.
Finally, no needles, gloves, or contaminated items are ever reused. Items meant to be kept sterile are not touched with dirty gloves. This seems like common sense, but felt that given recent news it needs to be stated. Cabinets, lights, chairs, xray sensors, and curing lights are wiped down after every patient with OPTIM 33TB wipes and Lysol. Both are very effective disinfectants.
I hope that you find this information reassuring that we take your health and safety very seriously. We would be glad to give you a tour or answer any additional questions regarding this topic. We are still accepting new patients and if you feel this is an environment your friends and family would appreciate, have them call us at 757-645-4055 or contact us through our website.
Dr. Steve Stensland