Instrument reprocessing requires a series of steps to assure that contaminated patient-care items (dental instruments, devices, and equipment) are safe for reuse. All procedures must be performed correctly and in the proper sequence every time to make sure items are processed properly.
Patient-care items are categorized depending on the potential risk for transmission of infection associated with their intended use:
- ”Critical” items penetrate soft tissue or bone and have the highest risk of transmitting infections; these items should always be heat sterilized.
- ”Semicritical” items touch mucous membranes and have a lower risk of transmission than critical items. Most semicritical items can (and so should) be heat sterilized; if they cannot tolerate heat sterilization, they should be processed using a high level disinfectant.
- “Noncritical” items only contact skin and have the lowest risk of transmission. In most cases, noncritical items can be cleaned and, if visibly soiled, low level disinfected. Dental health care personnel should be familiar with the recommended practices for reprocessing patient care items.