Single-use items in dentistry are such items as syringe needles, prophylaxis angles, cups, brushes, saliva ejectors, air/water syringe tips, tool trays, and many other resources. They are also referred to as disposable products. Instruments used by the dental team that penetrate the skin and cannot be adequately cleaned and/or sterilized are single-use items. These items should be appropriately marked with the universal “single-use” symbol identifying it as intended for one use or for use on a single patient during a single procedure. These single-use identifying marks are the responsibility of the manufacturer. These items should be disposed of in one or two ways after each client. Either by recycling or disposing of as solid waste.
Needles used and contaminated should be placed in approved sharps containers for disposal.
Critical and Semi-Critical Items and Instruments
These are the types of items or instruments used in the dental office. All of them must be heat-sterilized unless the heat would compromise or degrade them. Bone chisels, scalers, scalpels, and forceps are examples of critical items and instruments. They are considered critical because they penetrate the soft tissues or bone or are in contact with the bloodstream or sterile tissue. Semi-critical items and instruments are the opposite of critical. They do not penetrate soft tissue or bone or enter into the bloodstream. But they do make contact with mucous membranes or non-intact skin. Examples of semi-critical items and instruments are amalgam condensers, reusable impression trays, and mirrors.
Here are examples of items that are heat-sensitive and are single-use disposable:
- impression trays
- air and water syringe tips
- mouth mirrors
- cups and brushes
- cotton products
These types of items are never sterilized or reused. They should be kept in a sterile environment in containers, drawers, and cabinets that are enclosed away from external environments. Do not store them in places such as the following:
- under a sink
- anywhere they may become wet or damaged
- exposed to fluctuating temperatures
Check out disposal requirements with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Single-use items utilized in the dental practice are not heat tolerant and cannot be cleaned or disinfected without destruction. In order to stay abreast of current research, standards, guidelines, and recommendations for the dental practice, one resource to be familiar with is the new CDC DentalCheck Mobile App. Also, you must always read the manufacturer’s instructions. IFUs (instructions for use) should be readily available to any team member using any equipment or product in the dental office. OSHA requires that time be allotted in training every time new equipment, products, or procedures are brought into the dental office. If instructions are not included on how to process the item for reuse, then make sure to follow the disposal instructions.
In order to follow FDA and CDC guidelines, the reuse of disposable items is not permitted; however, the practice of attempting to sterilize disposable items in the dental office still occurs because the establishment is attempting to save money on supplies despite the guidelines. The reality is that trying to save money costs more in time and materials than if the item would have been simply used and disposed of properly. Just imagine what it would cost the dental practice if a patient were to become ill as a result of flawed infection control, and the information were to be circulated to the public. The expense of reusing disposable devices would be minute in comparison!
Knowingly putting patients at risk in any way can never be justified. In the dental practice, the patient’s safety must always be considered paramount. Compromising a patient’s risk of contracting an infectious disease to save a few dollars must never be acceptable practice. The cost of the disposable or reusable item should be considered carefully compared to the cost, time and materials to clean and reprocess the item when making decisions on supply purchasing.
Always explain to your patients their health and safety are important to you and your dental team. Keep them apprised of the infection control procedures in your dental office. This will help to reassure them of their safety. Set out to them every step you take in order to control infection at your practice such as:
- hand washing
- use of personal protective equipment
- decontamination of surfaces
- use of disposable items
- how you sterilize non-disposable items
Your patients will be the ones who see for themselves whether you are committed to their well-being and quality dental care or not. In order to avoid any quality issues and protect everyone on the dental team, proper storage and disposal of single-use items must be put into practice.
At Strategic Practice Solutions, we offer a course which meets the yearly OSHA/CDC/HHS safety and hazard training program for employee training. Our services are geared toward aiding a practice to become compliant with current OSHA and HIPAA standards. In-office private sessions are also available upon request. Contact us today for more information.