| FAQ - Instrument Processing - Archived Through 2012
Should my dentist be heat-sterilizing all of the instruments used in my mouth?
Unless it is heat-sensitive or single-use/disposable, all items that enter the mouth should be sterilized using heat (for example, via autoclave, chemical vapor, dry heat). When available, single-use disposable items are a good infection control alternative to heat sterilizing instruments between patients. As their name suggests, single-use disposable items are used for only one patient and then discarded.
A few instruments and devices in the dental office may not be able to withstand the heat sterilization process. Any heat-sensitive item used in the mouth should be sterilized by immersion in a powerful (high-level) chemical disinfectant/sterilant for the time listed on the product's label for sterilization (usually 3-10 hours).
Ideally, heat-sensitive devices/instruments should be replaced with either heat-tolerant or single-use disposable devices.