Multiple-use dental dispensers, sometimes called dental “syringes” are devices used to deliver various dental products including impression materials, adhesives, dental composites , and endodontic (root canal) materials to a treatment site in the mouth. Multiple-use dental dispensers do not include disposable syringes or dental needles (hypodermic syringes) for injection of anesthetics and other medications.
Importance of Infection Control
Manufacturers typically supply multiple-use dental dispensers as pre-filled syringes with disposable tips. The tips are intended to be discarded after each patient use, but the dispensers containing the remaining dental material often are reused.
Photo courtesy of Henry Schein, Inc.
Contamination or infection control issues arise for patients when the body or housing of multiple-use dental dispensers comes in contact with a previous patient’s cheek or lips, or when the dispenser is handled by a dental practitioner whose gloves have become contaminated with previous patient’s blood or saliva.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), devices that come in contact with mucous membranes of the mouth are classified as “semicritical” depending on the potential risk for infection associated with their intended use. CDC recommends that once a device in this category (such as a dental dispenser) becomes contaminated, it should be heat sterilized or subjected to immersion in a high-level chemical disinfectant.
However, multiple-use dental dispensers cannot be reprocessed using heat sterilization (e.g., steam autoclave) or immersion in high-level disinfectants because this may damage the dispenser or material contained in the dispensers. Also, the FDA does not believe that these devices, once contaminated, can be adequately disinfected by wiping with a chemical disinfecting solution. Therefore, the FDA recommends disposal of contaminated multiple-use dental dispensers in order to avoid the risk of cross-contamination to patients.
Tips for Dental Practitioners
The following information should help dental practitioners reduce the risk of cross-contamination between patients when using multiple-use dental dispensers.
- Apply disposable barrier sleeves/wraps over multiple-use dental dispensers before use with each patient.
- Use new, uncontaminated gloves when handling multiple-use dental dispensers.
- Utilize dental assistants to dispense material for the dentist
- Avoid contact of the reusable parts (e.g., the body of the multiple-use dental dispenser) with the patient’s mouth.
- Reuse the multiple-use dental dispenser if it becomes contaminated.
- Reprocess a contaminated multiple-use dental dispenser by using chemical wipes or disinfectants.
- Immerse multiple-use dental dispensers in a high level chemical disinfectant. This may damage the dispenser and the material contained in the device.
- Sterilize multiple-use dental dispensers. This may damage the material contained in the device.