How I left punctured pouches behind

I purchased a 32-year-old dental practice nearly four years ago, and I have spent countless hours updating its systems and practices. The instrument sterilization and storage system needed significant revision.

Pamela Maragliano-Muniz, DMD

I purchased a 32-year-old dental practice nearly four years ago, and I have spent countless hours updating its systems and practices. The instrument sterilization and storage system needed significant revision. If I had a nickel for every time I sent a pouch of instruments back to be sterilized because an instrument punctured the paper part of the sterilization pouch, my practice might be paid off already!

Storing sharp instruments in sterilization pouches can be particularly hazardous for several reasons, and puncturing the pouch can contaminate sterile instruments.

Dental personnel are at risk for injury if handling a sterilization pouch containing sharp instruments. This can be particularly serious if proper infection control protocols are not followed. And instruments and mirrors inside a sterilization bag can become damaged by knocking into one another.

I decided to transition the storage of my instruments and ultrasonic scaling inserts from pouches to cassettes. Cassettes seemed to be the right choice for my practice because cassettes offer the following benefits:

  • Improved infection control practices: Cassettes containing instruments prevent the instruments from puncturing a sterilization pouch.
  • Improved staff safety: Once any debris, residual cement, or restorative material is physically removed from an instrument, it is placed in the cassette. The entire cassette is placed in the ultrasonic cleaner and then prepared for sterilization without removing contaminated instruments. This reduces the exposure of my sterilization team to contaminated instruments and improves overall office safety.
  • Patient confidence: The cassette is unwrapped and opened in front of the patient. This improves the confidence of our patients that we offer the highest quality of infection control practices.
  • Instrument organization: During procedures, the cassettes will cradle each individual instrument; this prevents an instrument from rolling off a countertop or being lost among the other instruments. This provides a safer and more efficient environment in which to practice.
  • Improved instrument longevity: Cassettes prohibit instruments from hitting one another, which prevents bending, breaking, dulling, or damaging costly dental instruments. Ultrasonic scaling inserts are particularly at risk for being damaged or bent. The metal cassette protects the insert from being damaged during stacking, storing, or removal from a paper or plastic and paper sterilization pouch.

I decided to invest in the Infinity Series Cassettes made by Hu-Friedy. I appreciate the company’s long track record for quality and durability. I am able to color-code the cassettes for each type of procedure or for my dental hygienist. The design facilitates proper infection control procedures, especially drying of the instruments prior to wrapping and sterilizing.

I also appreciate the variety of sizes that are available; one size cassette does not fit all and I like to customize my cassette for the different procedures. If you prefer sterilization pouches instead of wrapping cassettes, they are available in a variety of sizes; this allows you to continue the workflow that you are used to, but with the added safety and convenience of cassettes. I am certainly glad that this has been checked off my very long list of updates. Now onto something else!

Pamela Maragliano-Muniz, DMD, was a dental hygienist before earning her DMD from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. She holds a certificate in advanced prosthodontics from the UCLA School of Dentistry and maintains a private practice in Salem, Massachusetts. In 2010, her practice was named the Adult Preventive Care Practice of the Year by the American Dental Association.

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