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Program FAQ


Frequently Asked Questions - Dental Sterilizer Monitoring Plan

"Why doesn't UofL offer a monthly sterilizer monitoring plan?"

  • The first reason is empirical as both the ADA and the CDC recommend only weekly sterilizer monitoring using Biological Indicators and neither endorse monthly monitoring.
  • An additional reason is based on our laboratory experience. When a non-sterile sample is detected in the laboratory, a second sample is often already in the mail, thus rapid follow-up and confirmation is achieved.

"Why do I have to use Biological Indicators (spore strips) instead of relying on the chemical indicators on my bags and tape?"

  • The color change of chemical indicators provide evidence that the pack was exposed to heat but there is no indication that the time and temperature required to kill bacterial spores was achieved inside the pack. The only true test to verify that your machine reached sterilizing conditions is to kill bacterial spores, the most resistant life forms known. The assumption is made that by killing spores the less resistant organisms including viruses and vegetative bacterial cells will also be killed. The spores used in the test samples are not pathogenic and do not cause disease in animals including humans.

"What does a non-sterile sample mean?"

  • Approximately 40% of the practices we monitor have a non-sterile sample sometime throughout the year and this is always a cause for concern; however, roughly 70% of the non-sterile samples are single, isolated events. These are nearly always attributable to human error such as overloading the sterilizer or cutting the time short or simply forgetting to put the strip through a sterilization cycle and then sending it to us --- yes, this does happen. Regardless, a single non-sterile sample is a good time to remind the staff that sterilization is critical to the practice and that the testing procedure is rigorous.
  • If we see two consecutive non-sterile samples, we recommend that the unit be serviced immediately.

"Will I be notified of each sample received and processed?"

  • We work hard for our money and assume that you do, too; thus, we try to be as efficient but effective as possible to contain costs. To send out hundreds of post cards weekly indicating sterile test results would just about double the cost of the service. Instead, we work on the principle that "No news is good news". By that we mean each sterile sample is recorded in the database with cumulative, written reports sent quarterly. However, when a sample is non-sterile we give immediate feedback. You will be contacted ASAP by phone, FAX, e-mail or whatever mechanism you prefer to let you know of the non-sterile sample and a written report will also be mailed to you.

"Why do you send samples, pre-addressed envelopes and stamps in sets of 20?"

  • Each sample lot has an expiration date and this assures you that your samples will always be in date. When you have only 2 or 3 samples remaining, give us a call at 1-800-554-8566 for more supplies. Your prepaid contract is for a year of service regardless of the number of samples used. Most offices use between 45 and 55 strips per unit per year depending on vacations and machine retests following service calls.

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