Handling and transport of materials such as impression materials, occlusal rims, bite registrations, etc, from clinic to the dental laboratory and vice versa can be a source of disease transmission.
Effective communication and coordination between the laboratory and dental practice will ensure that appropriate cleaning and disinfection procedures are performed in the dental office or laboratory, materials are not damaged or distorted because of disinfectant overexposure, and effective disinfection procedures are not unnecessarily duplicated.
When a laboratory case is sent off-site, DHCP should provide written information regarding the methods (eg, type of disinfectant and exposure time) used to clean and disinfect the material (eg, impression, stone model or appliance). Clinical materials that are not decontaminated are subject to OSHA transportation and shipping of infectious materials.
Appliances and prostheses delivered to the patient should be free of contamination. Communication between the laboratory and the dental practice is also key at this stage to determine which one is responsible for the final disinfection process. If the dental laboratory staff provides the disinfection, an EPA-registered hospital disinfectant (low to intermediate) should be used, written documentation of the disinfection method provided, and the item placed in a tamper-evident container before returning it to the dental office. If such documentation is not provided, the dental office is responsible for final disinfection procedures.
Dental prostheses or impressions brought into the laboratory can be contaminated with bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Dental prostheses, impressions, orthodontic appliances, and other prosthodontic materials (eg, occlusal rims, temporary prostheses, bite registrations or extracted teeth) should be thoroughly cleaned (ie, blood and bioburden removed), disinfected with an EPA-registered hospital disinfectant with a tuberculocidal claim, and thoroughly rinsed before being handled in the in-office laboratory or sent to an off-site laboratory. The best time to clean and disinfect impressions, prostheses or appliances is as soon as possible after removal from the patient’s mouth before drying of blood or other bioburden can occur. Specific guidance regarding cleaning and disinfecting techniques for various materials is available. DHCP are advised to consult with manufacturers regarding the stability of specific materials during disinfection.
In the laboratory, a separate receiving and disinfecting area should be established to reduce contamination in the production area. Bringing untreated items into the laboratory increases chances for cross infection. If no communication has been received regarding prior cleaning and disinfection of a material, the dental laboratory staff should perform cleaning and disinfection procedures before handling. If during manipulation of a material or appliance, a previously undetected area of blood or bioburden becomes apparent, cleaning and disinfection procedures should be repeated. Transfer of oral microorganisms into and onto impressions has been documented. Movement of these organisms onto dental casts has also been demonstrated. Certain microbes have been demonstrated to remain viable within gypsum cast materials for <7 days. Incorrect handling of contaminated impressions, prostheses, or appliances, therefore, offers an opportunity for transmission of microorganisms. Whether in the office or laboratory, PPE should be worn until disinfection is completed. If laboratory items (eg, burs, polishing points, rag wheels or laboratory knives) are used on contaminated or potentially contaminated appliances, prostheses, or other material, they should be heat-sterilized, disinfected between patients, or discarded (ie, disposable items should be used). Heat-tolerant items used in the mouth (eg, metal impression tray or face bow fork) should be heat-sterilized before being used on another patient. Items that do not normally contact the patient, prosthetic device, or appliance but frequently become contaminated and cannot withstand heat-sterilization (eg, articulators, case pans or lathes) should be cleaned and disinfected between patients and according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Pressure pots and water baths are particularly susceptible to contamination with microorganisms and should be cleaned and disinfected between patients. In the majority of instances, these items can be cleaned and disinfected with an EPA-registered hospital disinfectant. Environmental surfaces should be barrier-protected or cleaned and disinfected in the same manner as in the dental treatment area.
Unless waste generated in the dental laboratory (eg, disposable trays or impression materials) falls under the category of regulated medical waste, it can be discarded with general waste. Personnel should dispose of sharp items (eg, burs, disposable blades and orthodontic wires) in puncture-resistant containers.
1. Use PPE when handling items received in the laboratory until they have been decontaminated.
2. Before they are handled in the laboratory, clean, disinfect, and rinse all dental prostheses and prosthodontic materials (eg, impressions, bite registrations, occlusal rims and extracted teeth) by using an EPA-registered hospital disinfectant having at least an intermediate-level (ie, tuberculocidal claim) activity.
3. Consult with manufacturers regarding the stability of specific materials (eg, impression materials) relative to disinfection procedures.
4. Include specific information regarding disinfection techniques used (eg, solution used and duration), when laboratory cases are sent offsite and on their return.
5. Clean and heat-sterilize heat-tolerant items used in the mouth (eg, metal impression trays and face-bow forks).
6. Follow manufacturers’ instructions for cleaning and sterilizing or disinfecting items that become contaminated but do not normally contact the patient (eg, burs, polishing points, rag wheels, articulators, case pans and lathes). If manufacturer instructions are unavailable, clean and heat sterilize heat-tolerant items or clean and disinfect with an EPA-registered hospital disinfectant with low- (HIV, HBV effectiveness claim) to intermediate-level (tuberculocidal claim) activity, depending on the degree of contamination.