What we know today about dental handpiece sterilization is too important to ignore when it comes to properly cleaning the tools used in the dental industry. Obviously, the main concern here is stopping the spread of infections from patient to patient.
It’s important to do the right thing when no one is paying attention. Taking small steps towards doing the right thing is what ethics is all about. In order for the dental industry to move forward using only the best practices, we must make decisions that impact the lives of our patients in a positive manner.
Integrity is key when it comes to the proper sterilization of dental handpieces. By doing this, we decrease the risk of infection for every patient that we see. It’s a vital part of providing dental care to the masses.
Autoclaving Your Handpieces
The importance of autoclaving (sterilization by steam) your handpieces is a crucial component of maintaining a prosperous, honest, and healthy dental practice. For quite some time, we have known that the issue of reusing a dental handpiece without cleaning it was not only widespread, but it doesn’t uphold any sanitary standards.
It doesn’t matter the speed (high or low) type, make or model of the handpiece in question. When a dental handpiece is not autoclaved after every use, it can act as a source of cross-contamination.
The argument that so frequently comes up when it comes to autoclaving, is that in the long run, it can ruin the handpiece itself, typically the sheath and turbine. Since handpieces are expensive, it’s understandable that there is resistance to cleaning them after every patient. However, if your handpiece is properly maintained, the life of the handpiece should be increased.
Handpieces are not inexpensive. The prospect of having to replace one because autoclaving is causing damage to it can bring about a frustrating situation. Purchasing high-quality handpieces can help with this. Not only will you have well-made handpieces, but you’ll run less of a risk of ruining them over time.
Finding the Right Handpieces
If you’re autoclaving your handpieces as often as you should be, to avoid sharing bacteria and patient materials between patients, then you should know what type of handpieces to look for. There are some things to consider when you’re looking for handpieces to stock within your dental practice.
First, the handpiece must be designed to be autoclaved. If it’s not meant to withstand the autoclaving process, then there is no point in purchasing it for your practice. In order to sanitize your handpieces, the proper way, you’ll need handpieces that can withstand the sanitizing process. There are newer handpieces out there that do not attach to air and water lines. In order to use these, they must be FDA-cleared devices and you must follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use for reprocessing.
The handpieces you purchase must have smooth sides that are sleek and will not hold debris. The less that can get stuck in the handpiece itself, the less chance there is of spreading germs and bacteria. Every handpiece you purchase should have a seamless finish.
You’ll also want to make sure that the handpieces you choose for your dental practice are able to take on the practice of autoclaving over a long period of time. If your choice is between chrome and titanium, for example, you’ll want to choose titanium because it will withstand chemicals and the sterilization process for longer.
Maintaining the Handpiece
There are ways to maintain the life of your handpieces while making sure that they are always properly sanitized. Surface cleaning comes first, and the handpiece should be flushed with water for thirty seconds to reduce potential contamination. Never use alcohol or any chlorine containing cleaner to surface clean the handpiece, as it will cause it to break down.
Also, you must lubricate the bearings with oil to keep the handpiece from failing in the future. It’s important to make sure that you’ve expelled all the oil from the handpiece before you use it again. Clean and lubricate the chuck at least weekly.
Next, sterilize it using manufacturer instructions for autoclaving (placing handpieces in bags or other wrapped containers). The handpiece must be completely dry before use and stored in covered and closed containers. It’s important to note that handpieces that cannot be heated to a level that will kill bacteria should not be used. If they can’t be cleaned, it doesn’t make sense to buy them.
Dental Office Compliance
It’s important for dentists across the board to comply with these regulations Dr. Lisa Kane of Dental Office Compliance of New England is committed to taking control of this situation, helping dentist offices to comply with the sanitization guidelines regarding handpieces.
Dr. Kane has a love for patient care and a passion for the operational side of dentistry. She is dedicated to revolutionizing the way that industry handles the control of infectious diseases, enhancing the way the offices run and making the patient experience better.
She takes the job of making offices aware of all OSHA and CDC guidelines that can cause problems for the practice as a whole, including the risk of being shut down should they be found in violation. Dr. Kane helps busy offices take control of things such as exposure control logs, employee training and records, and office protocols
The dental industry as a whole should take responsibility for following all the necessary guidelines for sanitizing handpieces and keeping patients safe as a result. The reputation of the industry itself is dependent on the ability of every doctor to keep their patients healthy.
Keeping handpieces clean is a major part of that ability. It reduces the chance of spreading infection from patient to patient. In order to keep the integrity of the industry intact, it’s vital that all protocols for infectious diseases are followed. When we’re certain that we’re using sterilized handpieces every single time, we’re that much closer to maintaining that integrity and keeping our patients and ourselves as safe as possible.