Dental sterilization technicians: “Basic” role or crucial team member?

“If you are not already operating efficiently, you’re just bringing people into a broken system, and you’re missing out on their full potential.” —Nick Sonnenberg

With the ever-increasing staffing shortage in dentistry, it can be tempting to look for ways to fill the gaps in the workforce.

However, deprioritizing or not acknowledging the educational needs for the role of a dental sterilization technician is not appropriate.

Such a move would compromise the quality of patient care, which should always be kept at the forefront of any decision-making process.

Dental sterilization technicians-A recent article called “Practice production, prioritized: Hiring a sterilization assistant,”

highlighted a potential role of a sterilization technician/assistant in the dental practice.

The article proposes hiring a sterilization assistant to enhance the practice’s efficiency and profitability

without requiring the comprehensive education needed for dental assistants.

Hiring and comprehensively training a sterilization technician in place of assigning these duties to,

for example, a dental assistant, can be an appropriate response to staffing issues if done correctly.

However, dentistry has historically not valued the importance of infection control protocol, and

downplaying the training needed for this position negatively impacts patient safety and team dynamics.

What is a sterilization technician?

Dental sterilization technicians are typically responsible for running the sterilization area in a dental practice (e.g., sorting, cleaning, decontamination, and sterilization), performing assurance testing, and maintaining documentation and equipment. Sterilization technicians may also be responsible for cleaning and preparing operatories, and sometimes perform other clerical duties in a practice.



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