Only two years ago, a Brisbane dental practice was forcibly shut down as a direct result of improper infection control procedures.
Over 4000 patients were contacted, and it was recommended that they visit their GP to be tested for blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis C. The practice was closed for a month by Queensland Health and received extensive news coverage which undoubtedly affected their business.
The moral of this story? Correct and thorough equipment sterilisation is essential. How do you do this? There are many requirements outlined by the Australian Dental Association (ADA) regarding sterilisation and infection control. However, one of the most important procedures a dental practice needs to carry out on a regular basis is an air removal and steam penetration test, also known as a Helix Test.
What’s a Helix Test?
A Helix Test should be used to judge the accuracy of your steam autoclave. The test will measure how effectively the steam in your autoclave penetrates your hollow instruments; and therefore how well it sterilises them. A Helix Test can be carried out with a Helix Test Kit.
Why they’re essential
According to ADA, a Helix Test should be conducted daily on pre-vacuum sterilisers that process solid or hollow loads on a Class B cycle. This includes many autoclaves, which sterilise a wide variety of hollow instruments throughout the day in a busy dental practice. A Helix Test will ensure that every cycle you put through your autoclave is 100% sterilised, with zero chance of passing on infections to other patients.
Because many dental instruments are both thin and hollow, it’s paramount to make sure that there are no air pockets created in the autoclave chamber. These will prevent the steam from reaching the inside of the longest, thinnest hollow instruments. A Helix Test Kit will tell you whether your autoclaves steam penetration is strong enough, through viewing a chemical indicator.
Best practice guaranteed
By carrying out a Helix Test daily on your autoclave, you can rest assured that your dental practice is meeting ADA requirements regarding the sterilisation of instruments. It also means that your patients are safe from infection, and your practice can avoid horror stories and bad press as detailed above. Having a Helix Test Kit in your dental practice ensures that patient safety is always at the forefront.
Conducting a Helix Test every day will also provide you with detailed records on the performance of your autoclave and sterilisation of your instruments. This may come in handy down the track if you do have a case of patient infection. These records will allow you to look back and see that your autoclave was performing to standard on the day your patient contracted an infection, and allow you to rule out contraction from the instruments sterilised that day.
A Helix Test will also alert you to when your autoclave needs to be serviced or replaced. If you are continually presented with negative test results, it’s a definite sign that your autoclave needs attention.
Looking for a Helix Test Kit for your dental practice? Dental Depot sells Browne Helix Test Kits for small, Class B sterilizers. To find out whether this test kit is compatible with your autoclave, contact us today!
Need a replacement autoclave while yours is being serviced? Dental Depot provides short-term rentals for a variety of autoclaves, browse our range today.