Dental Autoclave: 4 Key Aspects About Spore Testing

by: dewi susanti
Spore testing is a vital process in verifying that sterilization has been achieved within a dental autoclave. This is confirmed by the death of dual spores used in such testing.

dental autoclave

There are 4 key aspects that should be observed in the testing:


1. Frequency Of Testing

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends weekly testing of a dental autoclave. There are also various guidelines in individual states in America, which outline the required frequencies of monitoring such sterilizing equipment (a selection of 39 states require weekly testing in the dental field). Such requirements may vary depending on the industry of use.


2. Spore Testing A New Dental Autoclave/ Sterilizer Before Use
A new sterilizer must always be tested before use. This should be done immediately following installation of the device. The process consists in monitoring a total of 3 consecutive cycles of biological indicator tests within an empty chamber. Take note that a dynamic-air removal sterilizer requires a specialized form of testing kit. This special test pack ensures faster detection of air leaks, inadequate steam removal or inadequate air removal.


3. Spore Testing After Repair Of A sterilizer

After performing major repair work on a dental autoclave, it is necessary to undertake a qualification test. Just as with the testing of a new sterilizer, this is done by monitoring 3 concecutive cycles of biological indicator within an empty chamber. However, such qualification testing may have already been performed by the repair company, in case such company was contracted to do the repairs.


4. Common Causes Of Failed Biological Indicator Testing

In some instances, a biological indicator test may fail due to certain errors during the operation. One cause may be that the spore test did not have adequate exposure to the particular sterilant within the dental autoclave. Such sterilant may include dry heat, Ethylene Oxide, chemical vapor or steam.


Many times, a failed spore test may simply be due to operator error. This normally happens when the sterilizer is loaded beyond its optimum capacity, which ends up inhibiting exposure of the sterilant to all sections within a sterilizer, including the spore test. In order to avoid such operator error, the manufacturer’s directions of use concerning load capacity must be adhered to. Such instructions also include directions concerning the placement of the biological indicator test within a sterilizer chamber.


A selection of other factors that may cause failed biological testing include: inadequate water levels; worn out or damaged autoclave door seals; blocked safety valves; and clogging of the air-trap jet. Many other aspects may also contribute to such a failed test. Following a failed test, a retest would be necessary in order to have conclusive proof of the autoclave’s working mechanism.


When a failed test occurs, the autoclave should not be used until a retest has been done. Moreover, before doing the retest, all possible causes need to checked in order to identify what the problem is. A systematic appraisal would involve reviewing the load input during testing as indicated within the test report.


The recorded load settings should be compared with the manufacturer’s specifications to detect any discrepancies. In case, the dental autoclave has a failed test when taken through a retest, the sterilizer would require comprehensive repair work by the manufacturer.

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