Decon Pete – dental nurses’ role in infection control

decon peteDecon Pete covers the role dental nurses play in disinfection and decontamination and explains why constant updates and training is so important.

With the responsibility for the implementation of infection control policies falling largely on the shoulders of dental nurses, it is vital that they are fully aware of the appropriate local guidelines, understand how to comply and know where to access help and advice if required.

In all these areas and more, Decon Pete and many other companies are available to help.

Below is a brief guide to some of the key areas to consider in decontamination.

Hard surface cleaning

Ensuring surfaces in surgical areas are sufficiently cleaned and disinfected between every patient not only reduces the potential spread of viruses and controls bacteria, it is also the cornerstone of good infection control.

Whether you choose to clean and disinfect as separate tasks, or prefer to choose a combined cleaner and disinfector in one product, is down to personal choice.

However, we saw in the 2013 edition of HTM 01-05, applicable in England, paragraph 6.57 was reworded to confirm that alcohol-based wipes are not suitable for single-stage cleaning and disinfection in an environment where protein-based soils are likely to be present. Use alcohol when the surface is cleaned first.

Washer disinfectors

Thorough cleaning of instruments is an essential pre-requisite to sterilisation. By definition, only clean instruments can be sterile.

In Scotland and Ireland, practices must use washer disinfectors; in England and Wales, their use is part of the move to ‘best practice’.

HTM 01-05 Section 3.9 states: ‘Whenever possible, undertake cleaning using an automated and validated process in preference to manual cleaning.’

Washer disinfectors are also the other truly validatable cleaning process with consistent results every time. It is extremely important, however, that to achieve this consistency, users must load the washer in the correct manner and never overload.

Steam sterilisers

There are three main types of steam sterilisers as outlined by EN 13060:

  • Type N: non-vacuum sterilisers. Designed for non-wrapped solid instruments such as scalers, probes, mirrors etc
  • Type B (vacuum): incorporate a vacuum stage. Designed to reprocess load types such as hollow, air-retentive and packaged loads, including solid instruments
  • Type S: especially designed to reprocess specific load types. These can include solid, hollow and air retentive loads.

We must ensure that users load the autoclave correctly. And that they process the correct instruments for the cycle.

For example, we only place solid instruments into a non-vac and not handpieces, forceps etc or anything that is air retentive.

Test and validation

The need to test and validate equipment to ensure it is performing within manufacturer’s  parameters is an important part of compliance. Practices must carry out daily, weekly, quarterly and  annual tests with documented results. Always follow your equipment user manual for full instructions.

Training and education

As key aspects of patient safety and service quality, decontamination training and education is part of ongoing staff development.

Knowledge in the area of infection control is constantly advancing. Technology is evolving and research is uncovering more relevant data on how to minimise the risks from cross infection.

Keeping up with the changes is a constant challenge. This is why it’s important to know where to access information and ensure your practice meets its compliance obligations.

If you need any help with compliance, knowledge and information you can either email me at [email protected] or visit the website Here you will find lots of useful content including some newly added online CPD courses.

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