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We utilize state-of-the-art washing/disinfection and sterilization equipment to ensure thorough cleansing and effective sterilization of our instruments. Our instrument sterilization process is described below to help our existing and potential patients to better understand the steps we take to ensure the sterility of our instruments.

Instrument Sterilization Process

STEP 1: Receiving and Processing

certified dental assistant patricia wong dds san francisco dentist 94122After a procedure, all instruments and other items are carefully transported to the "dirty" counter in the sterilization area. Disposables and other single-use items are properly discarded. Re-usable items, such as instruments, are inspected, organized, and prepared the washing/disinfection process.

We use stainless steel cassettes to keep the majority of the instruments for a specific procedure together. Sharp instruments are safely stored in the cassettes during transport. This reduces direct handling of potentially contaminated instruments and decreases the risk of exposure to blood-borne pathogens. Instruments remain in the cassettes throughout the entire sterilization process. Cassettes do not hinder the washing or sterilization process since they are perforated to allow cleaning solutions and steam vapor to reach the contents.

* Hu-Friedy Instrument Management System
STEP 2: Washing & Disinfection

Instruments are placed into an electronic washer designed to thoroughly remove protein debris from instruments. The washer utilizes a cleaning solution that combines special detergents with hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide has long been recognized for its exceptional anti-microbial properties and provides low-level disinfection during the washing process. Instruments will have 99.9% of all protein material removed after a washing cycle. This level of efficacy is important since any residual debris left on instruments may impair sterilization.

Electronic washers are utilized by most hospitals to clean instruments prior to sterilization. Unfortunately, they are not as prevalent in dental practices primarily due to space and cost concerns. Most dental practices manually clean instruments by hand scrubbing or rely solely on an ultrasonic unit which do not offer the same level of cleaning efficacy.

We are also equipped with an ultrasonic unit to pre-clean instruments contaminated with non-protein debris that require soaking in an enzymatic solution to aid in the removal of the debris. The bottom line - we utilize all methods necessary to ensure our instruments are thoroughly cleaned and debris-free prior to packaging and sterilization.

certified dental assistant patricia wong dds san francisco dentist 94122 Benefits:
  • Superior cleaning of instruments compared to other methods
  • Special detergent and hydrogen peroxide cleaning solution provides low-level disinfection during the washing process
  • Decreases risk of exposure to blood-borne pathogens when compared to manual cleaning
  • Instruments are dried and ready for packaging after the washing cycle
* Scican Hydrim Instrument Washer & BioSonic Ultrasonic Unit
STEP 3: Preparation and Packaging
Individual items are sealed in self-adhesive, pre-formed pouches. Cassettes are wrapped in blue paper. The pouches and the tape used to seal the blue paper have special chemical process indicator stripes that change color when exposed to steam sterilization to provide sterility assurance without the need to open the pack.

Items that will not tolerate the high temperature of heat/steam sterilization are identified for cold sterilization. These items are packaged and sealed after the cold sterilization process.

certified dental assistant patricia wong dds san francisco dentist 94122 Benefits:
  • Packaging protects instruments during sterilization
  • Does not hinder the sterilization process since they allow steam vapor to reach the enclosed contents
  • Sealed cassettes and pouches ensure sterility during storage until next use.
STEP 4: Microprocessor-Controlled Steam Sterilization
Prepared and packaged instruments are loaded into a hospital-grade sterilizer that combines high temperature and pressurized steam for effective and efficient sterilization. Microprocessor-controlled precision guarantees the proper time and heat settings are utilized to ensure sterility.  The automatic "set-and-forget" ability virtually eliminates human error that can occur with sterilizers that require manual settings.

We diligently follow manufacturer-specified maintenance guidelines. Our sterilizer is wiped-down, drained, flushed, and spore-tested by a third-party monitoring agency weekly followed by a more thorough cleaning at the end of every month.

Items that will not tolerate the high temperature of heat/steam sterilization are "cold sterilized". The cold sterilization process involves the immersion of the items in a high-level disinfectant/sterilization solution for 10 hours. The effectiveness of cold sterilization is equivalent to heat sterilization with the only difference being the time required to achieve sterility (10 hours versus 30 minutes for heat/steam sterilization).

certified dental assistant patricia wong dds san francisco dentist 94122 Benefits:
  • Microprocessor-controlled heat/steam sterilization guarantees sterility of instruments
  • Automatic functionality eliminates human error associated with sterilizers that require manual settings
  • Diligent maintenance and spore-testing by a third-party monitoring agency ensures effective sterilization
* Midmark M11 UltraClaveŽ Automatic Sterilizer
STEP 5: Clean Storage
Sterile instrument cassettes and pouches are stored in a clean and dry cabinet to retain their sterility. All packages containing sterile items are inspected before use to verify barrier integrity.
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