The penultimate stage of the sterilization process is the storage of instruments. This step is essential to protect the sterile instruments from environmental contamination (airborne bacteria and viruses). During storage, the wrapped instruments may be contaminated by:
- Too frequent handling – excessive transferring from one place to another or over-stocking storage areas
- Moisture if the package is placed on a wet bench top or splashed with water
- Penetration if the instruments break through the surface of the pack
A package is considered to be non sterile if:
– It is damaged or opened
– It comes out of the autoclave wet or is placed on a wet surface
– It falls down or is placed on a dirty surface
These sterile Medical devices must be stored in a place which is:
- Away from dust (risk of contamination)
The expiry date of the sterilized instruments is usually of 1 month (2 months if double wrapped). Although it is important to control them before use.
Despite the lack of time, resources or training in some dental practices, it is imperative to follow these protocols so that the staff and patients are protected from cross-contamination.