A new study that will appear in the next issue of the British Dental Journal says that the sterilization of dental instruments like endodontic files is not satisfactory when the existing methods that are usually employed in general dental practice are used. Files are instruments that are used to clean and disinfect the roots during a root canal procedure.
The study examined 250 reused files collected from 25 general dental practices in the UK and found that more than 75 percent of these showed visual contamination, while 7 percent had traces of blood on them. The study was conducted by Messers S Letters, AJ Smith, S McHugh and J Bagg, who sent out questionnaires on the method of sterilization employed to 25 general dental practitioners. The authors also collected ten files that had been already used and were reprocessed for reuse. They found that blood contaminated files were even more unsafe than visually contaminated ones. The authors concluded that even though various methods are employed to decontaminate the files, there was no consensus on the best method and that each method had several positive as well as negative aspects.
"Endodontic files are another example of medical devices that are very difficult to clean and effective cleaning of a re-usable device is essential to ensure the efficacy of the sterilization process. This study has shown that under general practice conditions these devices cannot be reliably cleaned and must be viewed as single use devices.
In turn practitioners must be adequately recompensed for endodontic files in their switch to single use," said Dr Andrew Smith, senior lecturer in Oral Microbiology at the University of Glasgow Dental School.