STERILIZATION AND DISINFECTION
Section I. STERILIZATION, STORAGE, AND DISPOSAL
a. Overview. Sterilization destroys all forms of life within an environment.
Disinfection destroys or inhibits most pathogenic organisms. Proper cleaning of items
to be sterilized and disinfected is necessary to prevent cross-infection. Steam, chemical
vapor, or dry heat under specific conditions of time, temperature, and pressure provide
the easiest, quickest, and most common means of sterilization in the dental clinic.
Chemical disinfectants provide the most efficient means of disinfection.
b. Definition of Terms.
(1) Disinfection. Surface disinfectants are applied to operatory surfaces and
equipment that cannot be removed and immersed and heated, but that have been
touched by patients or dental staff or have been exposed to aerosol or splatter
produced by high speed dental equipment such as handpieces. Such terms as
"antiseptic," "germicide," and "sanitizer" fall into the category of disinfection. Even
though most infectious material is destroyed by disinfection, some resistant, potentially
harmful microorganisms may remain.
(2) Sterilization. Sterilization procedures are applied in dentistry to reduce
the possibility of cross contamination by killing all bacteria, bacterial spores, and viruses
found on instruments, materials, and equipment that has been exposed to a patient's
body fluids and/or tissues. This is achieved through the correct utilization of sterilization
As a field expedient method, boiling water may be used for sterilization;
however, boiling water requires 30 minutes to kill all spore-forming
CLASSIFICATION OF DENTAL ITEMS
a. General. Dental items are classified according to the need and practicality
for achieving disinfection or sterility. Generally speaking, any instrument which may
penetrate tissue or bone must be sterilized. The dental specialist should have a clear
understanding of this classification to ensure proper handling.
b. Critical Disposable Items. Critical disposable items, such as scalpel blades
and injection needles, are introduced beneath the oral mucosa and carry the greatest
risk of infection. These items require sterility before use and special procedures for
disposal after use.