Updated Guidance on Decontamination in General Dental Practices

06 November 2013

Author: Clare Bates
Practice Area: Healthcare
Sector: Healthcare


All General Dental Practitioners in Northern Ireland have been asked to familiarise themselves with new guidelines on decontamination which have recently been released by the Acting Chief Dental Officer.  The Department of Health in England has released the 2013 edition of the Technical Memorandum on Decontamination for dental practices, and the Northern Ireland DHSSPS has, once again, reviewed the document and made a number of Northern Ireland specific amendments.  Some of the key Northern Ireland specific policies are set out below.

  • The DHSSPS has stated that all dental practices in Northern Ireland should now be working at “Best Practice” standards as outlined in the technical guidance. 
  • The DHSSPS has, once again, advised against the manual cleaning of instruments, and instead a washer-disinfector should be used.  Regardless of the technology used, the cleaned instruments, prior to sterilisation should be free of visible decontaminants.  Manual cleaning should only be considered where the manufacturer of the instrument specifies that the instrument is not compatible with the automated processes. 
  • In order to achieve “Best Practice” the dental practice should have a room, which is separate from patient treatment rooms, dedicated to decontamination.  There should be physical separation between the clean and unclean sides of the room.  Alternatively, general dental practices may use an accredited Sterile Services Department instead of carrying out local decontamination.  If this alternative option is chosen, there must be designated areas for the dispatch of dirty instruments and the storage of clean processed instruments. 
  • Amendments have been made in relation to instrument packaging and storage in the updated Technical Memorandum.  This is due to expert opinions on the risks of environmental recontamination of instruments.  Barriers must be maintained between the instruments and the general practice environment.  Sterilised instruments should be kept in designated areas.  They should be stored above floor level away from direct sunlight and water in a secure, dry and cool environment.  Best practice requires that instruments not scheduled for current use with the current patients be stored in a separate environment, ideally in the clean area of the separate decontamination room.   
  • The DHSSPS advises that Endodontic reamers and files should be treated as single use regardless of the manufacturer’s designation.   

All GDPs have been asked to circulate the new guidelines within the dental team and to incorporate them into any ongoing and future training of staff.  Dental practices should make any necessary changes to their practice structures in order to ensure compliance with the guidelines.  The updated guidance is available at http://www.dhsspsni.gov.uk/index/hea/decontamination-general-dental-practices.htm