Someone told me that the handpiece sterilization pouch can't be opened until right before working on patient. Is that true? If so, how long can they be out?
The CDC states on its Website:
How should items be stored following sterilization?
Sterile items and disposable (single-use) items should be stored in an enclosed storage area (e.g., cabinet or drawer). Dental supplies and instruments should not be stored under sinks or in other locations where they might become wet. Sterilized items should remain wrapped until they are needed for use.
Unwrapped items are susceptible to contamination. Avoid storing items loose in drawers or cabinets because unwrapped items cannot be kept sterile. Items stored in this manner are subject to contamination from dust, aerosols generated during treatment, and the hands of personnel who must handle them. 1
The OSAP FAQ states the following:
While each dental office must determine what is best for its practice setting, infection control experts recommend that sterile packs, packages, and/or cassettes remain sealed until the patient arrives.
Once sterile instruments are removed from the packages, they can become contaminated. Keeping them wrapped until use maintains sterility. Also, patients are better educated today concerning infection control procedures in dentistry. Opening sterile packages in front of them provides the assurance that instruments are sterile. Further, if a patient fails to arrive for an appointment, any instruments/packages opened in advance would need to be repackaged and sterilized again, even though they were not used. 2
1) US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sterilization — Packaging and Storage.
http://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/infectioncontrol/faq/sterilization.htm Accessed on March 19, 2015.
2) Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention. Frequently Asked Questions for Sterilization. http://www.osap.org/?FAQ_Instrum_Ster1#canwesetuptheinstrumenttray Accessed on March 19, 2015.