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    5 equipment considerations to improve infection control

    How you handle and clean your equipment can have a big impact on managing infection control at your practice.

    Keeping your patients safe from infection encompasses a number of considerations, including materials, procedures and equipment. What you do—or don’t do—with your equipment is an important dynamic when it comes to managing infection control.

    Cassettes improve efficiency and save time

    Instrument washers are certainly convenient and efficient, but just by virtue of how you use them you may be unwittingly wasting time.

    Doug Braendle, product manager at SciCan, observes that being able to presort and organize instruments before going into an instrument washer—such as SciCan’s Hydrim model—eliminates a speed and efficiency bottleneck.

    “The most expensive thing in the dental office is labor, it’s the staff,” Braendle says. “To put loose instruments in a Hydrim is almost a lost cause, because the advantage of a Hydrim is we put a cassette in there that has a hygiene setup. After it gets done drying, we take the whole cassette out as is, wrap it and then move on to sterilization, and then we’re ready to go for it to be used again. If it’s loose instruments, then you have this big basket and what your assistant is going to have to do is pick out individual instruments and sort them by where they need to go.

    Related reading: 5 more infection control mistakes you might not realize you're making

    “If that’s already in a cassette, it’s done for them,” he continues. “I don’t have somebody picking through them, losing valuable time and taking a very skilled member of the dental team because they know all the instruments.”

    Select equipment based on the practice’s busyness

    A number of variables go into determining which equipment to use, and an important consideration is your practice’s activity level.

    “We use the term ‘pass-through,’” Braendle says. “How much stuff is passing through your system? Passing through whatever washing that you’re doing? Passing through the sterilization area and going out to be used on patients? Once we have an idea as to how busy the practice is, then it’s just a numbers game. We can help them select the proper sterilization equipment and the proper washing equipment in order to keep up with how busy they are.”

    The busier a practice, the more a few minutes here and there can add up.

    “We run across ortho offices that are seeing up to 150 patients a day,” Braendle says. “And when I stick an instrument, whether it be a mirror or something else, in a patient’s mouth, at some point in the protocol that involves cleaning and it involves sterilization. We have to know what the pass-through is in order for us to give them some guidelines as to what it is that they may or may not need in the way of sterilization.”

    Set up your sterilization area

    A smooth, logical flow to your sterilization can also save time and money.

    “When you’re dealing with sterilization centers from an infection control standpoint, from the CDC and what the state mandates, it’s really imperative that we have a dirty-to-sterile protocol,” Braendle says. “It can be left to right, it can be right to left. It all depends on how the room is set up. There’s no right or wrong, it just depends on the flow of that room.”

    Being aware of your sterilization area’s size and configuration is an important variable.

    “Oftentimes with new setups, washers are fairly common,” Braendle says. “When you’re trying to redo an existing office, a washer can be somewhat problematic, because it’s the size of a regular dishwasher that you might have in your home. In some of these smaller sterilization areas, there may not be a space that big where we can just slide new things in.”

    When the area is properly organized, the workflow should be smooth and fluid.

    “Once the sterilization center is thought of, we’ll normally have a dirty storage, so the dirty cassettes come in, and if they have time to clean them and get some of the merchandise out—like two by twos and cotton rolls and things like that—rinse equipment off and then put it into the washer. We can do rinse and holds in between. When the machine is full enough, pick a cycle and then walk away,” Braendle says.

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    Robert Elsenpeter
    Robert Elsenpeter is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Dental Products Report and Digital Esthetics. He is also the author ...


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