Keeping You Safe: Infection Control At Corinna Dental Group
You’ve probably noticed that each practice in the Corinna Dental Group has a room that is dedicated to the cleaning and sterilisation of equipment. We call them the Sterilisation Rooms, or ‘the Steri Rooms’ for short. They are present because we need to ensure that all equipment that we use in your mouth is clean and sterile.
The human mouth teems with bacteria, viruses and fungi, and some forms of these are pathogenic, meaning they can cause disease. Of particular concern to many are the viruses that cause infections such as Hepatitis B and C, and HIV/AIDS. But we are also concerned about preventing the transmission of the organisms that cause influenza and the common cold.
You might be surprised to learn that our approach to instrument sterilisation is almost identical to the approach used in Australian hospitals: the main difference is that we operate on a smaller scale.
After an appointment, every instrument, piece of equipment and material that has been in or near the mouth, or was laid out for the purpose of being used but wasn’t, is removed from the treatment room. The entire room is then cleaned and disinfected according to a strict protocol. This is detailed work, and our staff approaches it in a systematised way in order to ensure everything is attended to.
When equipment trays leave the treatment room, they are taken to the Sterilisation Room, where a strict process of sorting, cleaning, disinfecting and sterilisation follows. There is a protocol for the management of every piece of equipment, from plastic trays, to mouth mirrors, to the dental hand pieces (also known as the drills).
Instruments and equipment are not simply placed into the autoclave, which is the machine that is used to sterilise equipment by holding them under heat and pressure for a prescribed period of time. Everything that will be autoclaved is first decontaminated, cleaned, dried and packed into sealable pouches. After the autoclaving process is complete, these sealed pouches are stored ready for use. If at any time a pouch becomes torn, wet or punctured, the instruments are removed and reprocessed.
We keep records of the process, complete with the date and time that each batch was processed and evidence that each cycle was successful in achieving sterilisation. These records remain on file for seven years.
Some equipment cannot be reused, and is disposed of in a manner that prevents it from becoming a risk of infection to others. Anything that is sharp enough to penetrate skin is disposed of in a “Sharps Container”, which is a tough and durable plastic bin. Any other waste that is deemed a biohazard is placed in a specially marked bin. All bio-hazardous waste is removed from the premises by a specialist disposal company, who processes the waste according to strict national guidelines.
When staff process the equipment, they themselves need to remain safe from potential transmission of infection. So if you ever peek into one of our Steri Rooms you’ll see staff wearing gloves, masks and eye protection.
There’s a lot to learn and to remember, which is why all staff undergo rigorous training when they first join the practice. The process is very specific, and there are many checks and balances in place. Every year the entire staff attends a refresher course: this is a requirement of ongoing registration for dental practitioners.
We take infection control very seriously. If you have any questions about the process or would like to see it in action, please ask! We’d be very proud to demonstrate our system to you.
First Published on Feb 10, 2014 – Last Updated June 2019