Chemical indicators: A must for proper sterilization

There's no process more vital to patient well-being than the sterilization process. Chemical indicators are a thorough, effective visual cue dental professionals can use to confirm they've achieved sterilization.


Editor's note: This article first appeared in the March 2021 issue of RDH magazine titled "Your canary in the sterilization process coal mine."



When it comes to providing the highest quality oral care and promoting infection control in the practice, the sterilization of all dental instruments is paramount. All sterilization processes should consist of three types of monitoring to ensure the procedure has been fully carried out: mechanical, biological, and chemical. Mechanical monitoring indicates that the machinery is operating at the correct temperature, for the specified time, at the proper pressure. This information should be recorded for every load of instruments sterilized.


Despite the quick turnover of dental instruments, biological monitoring or spore testing is only required weekly, but may be required more frequently if you are accredited through the Joint Commission or are sterilizing an implantable device.


Chemical indicators are essential because they make it possible for us to confirm that instruments have gone through the sterilization process between biological monitoring.


But do all dental professionals fully understand them and give them the attention they deserve?


Chemical indicators?