PACKAGING INSTRUMENTS FOR STERILIZATION
a. General. Dental instruments are packaged individually in sets or in packs,
depending upon the intended use. All packages should be wrapped loosely to allow the
sterilizing agent to circulate freely throughout the pack. It is important to make sure that
scissors, hemostats, and other hinged instruments are in the open position. The extra
length of the package allows inside air to expand. The size of the individual pack will
generally determine the best packaging material. The most common materials are
paper, plastic, nylon, and cloth.
(1) Paper. Instruments can be packaged in paper envelopes. When tape is
used for sealing, its length should be 2 1/2 times longer than the width of the tubing or
the paper envelope. This allows the tape to be sealed upon itself after the tube or paper
envelope is folded.
(2) Plastic or nylon. When plastic or nylon sterilization tubing is used to
package instruments, the pack (after sealing) should be 20 percent longer than the
longest instrument. The extra length allows inside air to expand and ensures that a
single heat seal will hold.
Cloth. When cloth is used as a packaging material, use a double
b. Labeling Packages with a Shelf Life Expiration Date. When the
sterilization and disinfection cycles are complete, label the packages with a shelf-life
expiration date. This date should correspond to the shelf life listed in figure 2-2. The
packages must be stored in a clean area. When packs are opened, they should be
opened using an aseptic technique.
Autoclave paper bags, muslin, and wovens
Nonwovens, nylon, plastic, or plastic and paper laminate
when heat sealed
Figure 2-2. Expected shelf life of instruments wrapped in different materials.
HEAT-SENSITIVE ADHESIVE TAPE TEST
Heat sensitive indicator tape [chemical indicator (CI) tape] serves as a binder to
seal wrappings or packs. The tape has been treated so that portions of its surface
change color when subjected to certain temperatures. It only serves as an indicator that
the critical temperature was reached, but does not prove that the necessary time was
maintained for sterility. It is not an indicator of sterility.