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Sterilising Services in Oral Health

Dental Instruments

The effective use of cleaning, disinfection and sterilisation and procedures in Oral Health facilities is essential  in the prevention of  healthcare associated infections. Numerous published articles documenting the transmission of infection after improper reprocessing of reusable medical devices have emphasised the requirement for all health care services to use appropriate cleaning, disinfection and sterilisation techniques.

CHRISP has customised the Easi-Sterilise [including the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), Workplace Skills Assessment (WSA) and Oral Health Sterilising Assessment tool (OHSAT)] to ensure that Queensland Health Oral Health facilities meet the minimum requirements for the reprocessing of reusable dental instruments and equipment in line with AS/NZS 4815:2006 Office-based health care facilities - Reprocessing of reusable medical and surgical instruments and equipment, and maintenance of the associated environment.


Principal Guideline

The overarching document that guides reprocessing practices within Queensland Health is the Queensland Health Disinfection and Sterilisation Guidelines (2009), and is based on the requirements of relevant Australian Standards.

Assessment Tool

Oral Health facilities that undertake reprocessing activities must ensure compliance with Queensland Health policies, guidelines and relevant standards.  A review of instrument reprocessing practice shall be undertaken every 6 months in all clinics that reprocess reusable dental instruments.

In 2010, CHRISP developed the Oral Health Sterilising Assessment Tool (OHSAT) to assist Oral Health facilities meet their minimum obligations for the reprocessing of reusable dental instruments.

Standard Operating Procedures

To assist Oral Health facilities operationalise QH policy, standards and guidelines, a set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), Draft Workplace Skills Assessments (WSA) and other supporting documents have been developed to provide a framework for the minimum set of standards for undertaking reprocessing activities.

These tools have been developed for use as:

  • A resource for staff
  • A replacement for the Oral Health Critical Instrument Tracking Train the Trainer Manual (2003)
  • A framework to assist staff identify their level of competence and identify areas where improvement may be needed
  • A resource to identify opportunites for improvement within the department that will require further education and training

The SOP's and WSA booklets are divided into 5 sections:


   Cleaning Procedures
   Packaging and Wrapping Procedures
   Sterilising Procedures
   Sterile Storage Area Procedures
   Quality Assurance

Batch Labelling

Currently across Queensland Health - Oral Health Facilities, CHRISP in conjunction with Austmel are implementing a training program for the use of:

  • new batch labels
  • loading and trouble shooting of the batch label guns.

Pre-sterilisation labelling and checking of batch labels is a five (5) step checking process. These steps are all important to ensure the items to be sterilised and steriliser has been through the process and increase patient safety by reducing the incidence of unprocessed instruments being put back into use:

  1. Determine which steriliser (if more than one) the items are to be sterilised - select the correct label gun for the steriliser (if more than one label gun available)
  2. Determine the cycle number the items will be sterilized. (Check the last sterilisation cycle printout and add one.  Some sterilisers count the bowie dick test cycles as a cycle number others do not).
  3. Set the cycle number on the label gun correctly
  4. Check the day and date and set the date on the label gun correctly
  5. Print a test label to ensure the above information is aligned correctly on the label, the information is clear and legible.

Please Note: The change of the class 1 chemical indicator on the label does not indicate sterility, but that the instruments have been put through the process. The print outs from the sterilisers are your definitive check that the full cycle has completed correctly and instruments have been sterilised.

The resources available to ensure correct use of the labels and label gun are:

Performance Requalification (PQ) for Steam Sterilisers

To assist Dental Assistants to be involved in the annual process of Performance Qualification of the small steam sterilisers three resources have been developed.

Supporting Documents

The following documents must be used in conjunction with the Queensland Health Disinfection and Sterilisation Guidelines and the Standard Operating Procedures for Oral Health:

Training Presentations

All files are in Microsoft Powerpoint format. Click on hyperlink below and choose SAVE as your option. Save file to a shared drive folder.

Last updated: 23 February 2012