After each time they are used on a patient, dental instruments are cleaned and sterilized at very high temperatures. Recommended sterilization methods include: an autoclave (steam under pressure) or a dry heat oven. The sterilization equipment usually is not in the treatment room. Disposable items, such as needles and saliva ejectors, cannot be sterilized and are discarded in special containers. Everything that is used in the patient's mouth should be either heat sterilized or disposable. Disposable products eliminate cross-infection.
Between each patient, all surfaces, such as the dental chair, dental light, drawer handles and countertops are cleaned and decontaminated with a surface disinfectant. Some offices may cover this equipment with protective covers, which are replaced after each patient. Disposable waterproof coverings such as impervious-backed paper, aluminum foil, or clear plastic wrap may be used to wrap hard-to-clean surfaces such as light handles or x-ray unit heads, etc. These surfaces may be contaminated by blood or saliva and are difficult or impossible to clean and disinfect. Sharp items, like needles, and anything contaminated with blood or saliva are disposed of in special containers.
Safe workplace regulations from OSHA, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, protect employees from injury and illness in the work place. These procedures protect the patient as well as the employees. An example is the use of gloves which provide protection for the patient as well as the office staff.
Protective Gear should be worn by the dentist and staff during all actual
patient treatment. Surgical masks, protective eyewear or chin-length plastic
face shields, and disposable gloves must be worn when splashing or spattering of
blood, saliva, or oral secretions is likely. These safety procedures are known
as Universal precautions.
The use of fresh gloves and masks, and protective eyewear is mandated. Hands must be washed and regloved before performing procedures on another patient.