Many of us take for granted the cleanliness of dental care due to the prevalent use of gowns, drapes, gloves, masks, and sterilized instrumentation. In order to assure that these instruments are properly cleaned, the CDC provided recommendations in 2003 that autoclaves, used to sterilize dental instruments, be tested for spores weekly. Improper sterilization can lead to the transmission of conditions such as HIV and Hepatitis.
Spore testing involves placing a package of live bacteria into an autoclave and running it through the sterilization process. The package is then sent to a laboratory for testing to ensure the efficacy of the autoclave. In prior years, spore testing was required on a monthly basis, but the CDC feels this may not be enough.
Inspection of records at various dental practices has revealed insufficient, or even nonexistent, spore testing practices. If dentists are found to be out of compliance with spore testing they may be subject to fines amounting to more than $3000 per incident. New laws, such as Bill 1519 in Oregon, clearly indicate the requirements for spore testing and the potential repercussions of failure to comply. Legislation such as this helps to maintain the integrity of dental practices and patient safety.