Our dental team at Wetherill Family Dentistry uses stringent sterilization protocols to ensure that our dental tools, equipment, and office spaces are thoroughly clean and completely safe for our patients.
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Importance of Instrument Sterilization

Dentistry is a health care profession that strives to provide a safe and comfortable environment for its patients in the Wilmington area. As a result, the American Dental Association (ADA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have instituted protocols to prevent cross-infection among dental patients. Each time dental instruments are used on a patient, they must be thoroughly cleaned and sterilized, or disposed of. Wetherill Family Dentistry adheres to this protocol.

To begin, let’s familiarize you with some terminology associated with cross-infection control at our dental practice in Wilmington:

  • Cleaning. Cleaning dental instruments with water and soap is essential before sterilization or disinfection. Cleaning dental instruments involves removing bacteria or debris and preparing the instruments for sterilization or disinfection.
  • Disinfecting. Disinfection removes microbes on instruments using liquid disinfectants. Bacterial spores, however, are not removed in this manner.
  • Sterilization. When done correctly, sterilization kills all bacteria on the surface of dental instruments, including bacterial spores.

Controlling Cross-Contamination

The CDC categorizes dental instruments into three categories based on their potential for transmitting bacteria to patients and dental care providers:

  • Critical Instruments. Any instrument that penetrates soft tissues or bone or enters the bloodstream is considered critical, including forceps and scalpels. Sterilization of these instruments by heat, dry or chemical processes is mandatory after each use.
  • Semi-critical Instruments. These instruments do not penetrate oral tissues. Nevertheless, they come in contact with the mucous membrane of the mouth or non-intact skin. Among semi-critical instruments are dental mirrors, amalgam condensers, and impression trays. CDC guidelines recommend sterilizing instruments after every use. As an alternative, an EPA-registered high-level disinfectant can be used.
  • Non-critical Instruments. Only intact skin and mucous membranes are in contact with these instruments, which include X-ray heads and pulse oximeters. There is a low risk of cross-infection with these instruments. Dental practices are allowed to use a low-level or intermediate disinfectant to clean them.

Sterilization of Tools and Instruments at the Dentist’s Office

A dental autoclave is a machine that sterilizes tools by using high pressure and temperatures. It is used to sterilize mouth mirrors, forceps, and dental scalers.

For sterility reasons, some equipment is single use only. Surgical masks, gloves, cotton rolls, syringe needles, and other items that are specific to one patient are considered disposable. All the instruments used to remove saliva have replaceable tips that are discarded after each patient, including suction devices, air syringes, and water syringes.

How Is The Rest Of The Dental Office Sanitized?

The most commonly touched areas of our office are regularly disinfected with hospital-grade solutions. Commonly touched areas include doorknobs, light switches, faucets, countertops, and waiting room chairs.

Many items inside our dental office are covered with plastic, such as the overhead light and the dental chair. After each patient leaves the exam room, all plastic covers are replaced and the room’s hard surfaces are disinfected.

Dr. Wetherill and his team adhere to exacting standards to ensure the safety and cleanliness of our dental office. In today’s world, it is more important than ever for dentists to protect themselves, their teams, and their patients. These routine procedures at Wetherill Family Dentistry allow you to visit with peace of mind, knowing you are in safe hands. Schedule an appointment today with our dental team in Wilmington and see for yourself the care taken to make your visit a safe and pleasant one.

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