In March of 2016, the CDC added a supplemental document to the 2003 Dental Infection Control Guidelines regarding sterilization of handpieces. This is not a new rule. Dental handpieces and associated attachments, including low-speed motors that can be removed from the air/water lines and reusable prophylaxis angles, should always be heat sterilized between patients and not high-level or surface disinfected. Although these devices are considered semi critical, studies have shown that their internal surfaces can become contaminated with patient materials during use. If these devices are not properly cleaned and heat sterilized, the next patient may be exposed to potentially infectious materials.
Heat methods can sterilize dental handpieces and other intraoral devices attached to air or waterlines (246,275,356, 357,360). For processing any dental device that can be removed from the dental unit air or waterlines, neither surface disinfection nor immersion in chemical germicides is an acceptable method. Ethylene oxide gas cannot adequately sterilize internal components of handpieces (250,275). In clinical evaluations of high-speed handpieces, cleaning and lubrication were the most critical factors in determining performance and durability (361–363).
Use these guidelines in conjunction with manufacturer’s instructions instructions for cleaning, lubrication, and sterilization. Some slow speed handpieces do not connect to air/water lines.
- Special Considerations
- Dental Handpieces and Other Devices Attached to Air and Waterlines 1. Clean and heat-sterilize handpieces and other intraoral instruments that can be removed from the air and waterlines of dental units between patients (IB, IC) (2,246,275,356,357,360,407). 2. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning, lubrication, and sterilization of handpieces and other intraoral instruments that can be removed from the air and waterlines of dental units (IB) (361–363). 3. Do not surface-disinfect, use liquid chemical sterilants, or ethylene oxide on handpieces and other intraoral instruments that can be removed from the air and waterlines of dental units (IC)(2,246,250,275). 4. Do not advise patients to close their lips tightly around the tip of the saliva.