Today we wanted to discuss a topic that may be on the minds of some people. Recently, articles have been published about an oral surgeon in Oklahoma who has not been following state regulation on sterilization and anesthesia. This put thousands of patients at risk for contracting Hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Upon inspection of his two practices, they’ve discovered that he was using rusty instruments, reusing needles, and potentially contaminated drug vials. Beyond that, they were not properly using the machine used to sterilize instruments, and it hadn’t been tested in over 6 years. His practice is currently under investigation.

But we are not here to scare you, rather, we wish to put your mind at ease. In my practice, we take sterilization very seriously. We even have one employee whose specific job is to sterilize and clean all of our instruments and make sure they are all in good condition, although each of us knows how to do it. Ashley cleans all the rooms after each patient and makes sure each step in the sterilization process is done correctly, from using our ultrasonic (which uses sonic energy, as well as a cleaning solution to break up any debris left on instruments) to the autoclave (which is a steam powered sterilization machine, that kills any remaining bacteria and viruses). Each week we have our autoclave tested to make sure it is doing it’s job properly. We also use a cold sterilization process which uses a chemical “bath” to soak certain instruments that cannot go into the autoclave and we leave them in for 12 hours for proper sterilization. Disposable needles are the only kind of needles for anesthesia we have in the office, and when the needle has been used on a patient, we have a sharps container that we put them in so they can never be reused. In addition, at the end of every week we run cleaning solutions through our suction lines and water lines and leave them over the weekend to ensure a proper and clean environment. We have 3 filters in the office that are there to kill airborne bacteria and viruses as well to protect you and us. In 2003 the CDC established infection control regulations for dental practices which covers rules about hand washing, proper glove changing, and sterilization of instruments, but inspections are left up to each individual state. We are sure to follow these rules and regulations.

In every way we are trying to protect our patients. As well, each employee in the office has had OSHA training to ensure that we also know how to protect ourselves. This requires us to wear proper PPE (personal protective equipment), which includes a lab coat, gloves, mask, and protective eye-wear. All licensed individuals (dentists, hygienists, dental assistants) must take an 8 hour course on HIV/AIDS as well to become licensed through the state of Washington. In addition, every year we review proper handling of instruments, needles, inspection of all equipment, and we go over proper procedure when exposure has occurred.

To your health,
Richard Stickney DDS PS


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