High standards for patient safety
Dr. Garrett here! The recent report of an oral surgeon in Oklahoma who had been practicing for decades using unsanitary equipment on his patients has brought to light many issues in how we as health care providers treat our patients. More specifically, how we are able to maintain a safe environment for our patients. One in which they can have confidence they are being treated in a sanitary way. Washington state has set legal guidelines which all dental offices are required to follow (click here for specifics). The main concern here is cross-contamination. This refers to the passing of microorganisms, bacteria, or other harmful substances from one patient to another through unsterile or improper equipment, procedures, or products. Not only does cross-contamination put our patients at risk, it can also potentially harm our employees. There are many infectious diseases that can be passed via blood and/or saliva, thus the proper sterilization or disinfection of equipment used must be a priority.
Fortunately, there exists technology capable of killing even the most resilient bacterial spores. The main machine relied upon to perform this is an autoclave. In a nutshell, an autoclave works by increasing the temperature in a sealed container that has had all the air removed. This high pressure environment allows steam to be heated to temperatures above 120 degrees Celsius for a sustained time period. This highly heated steam completely kills any pathogens exposed to it. An autoclave must legally be tested every single week to ensure that it is operating effectively. We ensure this by using spore strips. These are paper strips impregnated with Bacillus bacteria, which are the most difficult bacteria to kill. We place a strip in our autoclave every single week that we are open, and send the strip to a company to process it. They send us back a report letting us know if we are killing all of the bacterial spores. If the report comes back with evidence of spore activity still present, the autoclave must be fixed or replaced.
The autoclave is a great machine allowing us to completely sterilize most of the equipment used in our daily procedures. There are other aspects of sanitation that are just as important to us. This includes disposable plastic barriers on non-removable equipment. Everything in each suite is wiped down thoroughly with a disinfectant wipe after every single patient, no matter what procedure was done in the room. An ultrasonic cleaner is used on all small instruments to remove any organic matter prior to autoclave sterilization. Gloves, hand-washing, eye protection, masks…the list goes on!! We treat every patient before, during and after their appointment as though they have an infectious disease that could harm us or others. This is not a negative thing!! This is to maintain our high standards that our patients and employees expect and deserve.
Please feel free to ask us for a tour of our state-of-the-art sterilization center. We are always proud to show it off!!
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