Single-Use (Disposable) Devices

According to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) guidance entitled Labeling Recommendations for Single-Use Devices Reprocessed by Third Parties and Hospitalsexternal icon, “a single-use device, also referred to as a disposable device, [is] intended for use on one patient during a single procedure. It is not intended to be reprocessed (cleaned, disinfected/sterilized) and used on another patient. The labeling may or may not identify the device as single-use or disposable and does not include instructions for reprocessing.”

If a device does not have reprocessing instructions, it should be considered single-use and disposed of after one use, in accordance with local waste management system regulations.

Sometimes disposable patient-care items have reusable heat-tolerant alternatives. This is often true for prophylaxis angles, high-volume evacuator tips, impression trays, dental burs, and air and water syringe tips. In many instances, the reusable version of these items is hard to clean adequately, and it may be safer, easier, and more cost-effective to use the disposable version. When determining the cost-effectiveness of disposable and reusable items, dental health care personnel should consider not only the cost of the disposable item, but also the cost, time, and materials involved with cleaning and reprocessing the reusable item.


CDC. Guidelines for infection control in dental health-care settings – 2003. MMWR 2003; 52(No. RR-17):1–66. Available at:

Food and Drug Administration. Labeling recommendations for single-use devices reprocessed by third parties and hospitals; final guidance for industry and FDA. Rockville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration; 2001. pdf icon[PDF – 45KB]external icon.  Accessed March 14, 2016.

Miller CH, Palenik CJ. Aseptic Techniques. In: Miller CH, Palenik DJ, eds. Infection Control and Management of Hazardous Materials for the Dental Team, 4th ed St. Louis: Mosby: 2009:201–206.

Harte JA, Molinari JA. Role for Single-Use Disposable Items. In: Molinari JA, Harte JA eds. Cottone’s Practical Infection Control in Dentistry, 3rd ed. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2009:232–236.

Rutala WA, Weber DJ, and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee. Guideline for disinfection and sterilization in healthcare facilities, 2008:1–158. pdf icon[PDF – 1.26 MB].  Accessed March 14, 2016.

Siegel JD, Rhinehart E, Jackson M, Chiarello L, and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee. 2007 Guideline for isolation precautions: preventing transmission of infectious agents in healthcare settings 2007:1–219. pdf icon[PDF – 1.4MB].  Accessed March 14, 2016.

US Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 29 CFR Part 1910.1030. Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens: Needlestick and Other Sharps Injuries: Final Rule. Federal Register 2001;66:5317–5325. Updated from and including 29 CFR Part 1910.1030. Occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens; final rule. Federal Register 1991;56:64003–64182. icon.  Accessed March 14, 2016.