Ask the Dentist – Sterilization

Ask the Dentist – Sterilization
Ask the Dentist – Sterilization

We at Maintain Your Smile consider keeping our environment safe for our patients extremely important. We spend hours every day cleaning our instruments and operatories. I thought you might appreciate learning what goes into that process.

What exactly does it mean to be sterile?

Sterilization is defined by the CDC as removal of all microorganisms from a surface of an article or in a fluid to prevent disease transmission associated with that article. In layman’s terms, that means the instruments we use will NOT transfer any germs that could make you ill.


How do you do that?

Sterilization has several steps. First, we clean our metal instruments in an ultrasonic cleaning bath to remove any debris.  The cleaner in the bath has some chemical cleaning components, so this initial cleaning gets the process going quickly.

Our metal instruments are then rinsed and placed in sterilization pouches, sealed and placed in one of our four autoclave units. Once it’s started the autoclave fills with steam and reaches a temperature of 270 degrees Fahrenheit and 15 pounds pressure and held there for a minimum of 15 minutes.  It is this high heat that effectively kills the bacteria.

The instruments stay in their pouches until they are used for the next patient. The pouch is an effective barrier against contamination.  The pouches have a strip that changes color after it has been sterilized.  This is just one more quality assurance mechanism to insure the sterility of our instruments.

Last, we check each autoclave every week through a biological testing service to make sure that it is reaching the necessary heat to effectively sterilize. We run test strips through our autoclaves that are proven sterile in an independent laboratory.


What about the non-metal instruments?

Anything that goes into your mouth is either sterilized or it is disposed of. The impression dispensers and other plastic utensils are wiped down with anti-microbial wipes after each use, as are all surfaces in the operatories.  The solution in our wipes effectively kills bacteria and viruses including (but not limited to):  Tuberculosis, HIV, Hepatitis, Herpes, Influenza, and MRSA.


We always use any and all methods to keep our office a safe and clean environment for you and your family.


This post originally in our Winter 2017 Newsletter