(NC) The dental instruments used during treatment are subject to infection prevention and control protocols that have been put in place to ensure your safety. Therefore, any instrument that comes in contact with your mouth needs to be properly sterilized so that it’s safe to use on the next client.

If you’re worried that the instruments haven’t been sterilized, talk to your dental hygienist. They’re always prepared and expected to answer your questions because it’s your right to ask. There are a few ways your dental hygienist can address your concerns:

  1. The logbook is available at your request. It will indicate which instruments were used on you, as well as which sterilizer was used during the sterilization process.
  2. The biological spore test is also included in the logbook. A passed test signifies that the most difficult bacteria and viruses have been killed.
  3. The sterilization area is also accessible at your request. You may ask your dental hygienist to further explain the following sterilization process:
    • Sterilizing equipment: Dental hygienists must use sterilization equipment that is registered as a medical device with Health Canada. These devices kill germs using high-temperature steam and pressure. Not all items can withstand heat, like polishing cups or suction tips, and therefore need to be thrown out after each client.
    • Sterilized items: Once sterilized, items are wrapped in acetate or a pouch and should remain sealed until ready for use. Before treatment, your dental hygienist should open up a new package in front of you and show you the chemical indicator strips that demonstrate that proper sterilization was in fact done correctly. Be aware of any unwrapped instruments in the drawers or on countertops. It is impossible to keep unwrapped items sterile.

Dental hygienists are well versed in infection prevention and control. The College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario assesses their knowledge prior to them entering practice and monitors it throughout.