If your dental practice doesn’t incorporate a modern, efficient stericenter, you’re missing out on some serious time-saving, money-saving, safety-enhancing benefits. Read on to find out how the right dental practice stericenter can save time and money.
Think of your practice as a restaurant, and the stericenter as its kitchen. You can build the most beautiful dining room in the world, but if the kitchen can’t keep up with demand, your restaurant is going to start losing customers—and money. It’ll also start causing problems with hiring and team retention. After all, a good chef doesn’t want to work in a kitchen that’s frustratingly inefficient. Servers don’t want to make dozens of unnecessary trips back and forth to check on their orders. Lastly, safety and compliance could be at issue. If you’re taking shortcuts to compensate for your kitchen, a drop in cleanliness could cause foodborne illness, and team members might even be at risk for injuries. As you can see, a restaurant’s kitchen should be the first thought, not an afterthought…just like a dental practice’s stericenter.
Perfection in an imperfect world
Ideally, planning a practice or renovation should begin with the stericenter. Taking this approach will allow you to get all of the features and capacity you need now, while taking into account your future needs. Of course, that’s not always possible. Maybe your practice is trapped in its current space, with no possibility for expansion. You may actually need a 10- or 12-foot stericenter, but only eight feet are available. That’s not ideal, but today’s cabinetry and equipment are more space-efficient and flexible than ever, allowing you to make the most of what space you have.
Many space-challenged practices consider combining their break rooms and stericenter to save square footage. Just as you wouldn’t want your restaurant staff doing locker room activities in the kitchen, you really don’t want your team eating lunch in the same room where potential biohazards are coming in, and sterile instruments are stored. That’s a yuck…especially if it’s within view of patients.
Back to basics: A dental practice stericenter can enhance safety
The dental industry has adopted sterilization best practices per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recommend a safe, dirty-to-clean workflow. To accomplish this, sterile processing is divided into four steps:
1. Receiving, cleaning, and decontamination—Debris and contaminants are removed through scrubbing/ultrasonic cleaning
2. Preparation and packaging—Instruments are sorted and wrapped for sterilization
3. Sterilization—Instruments are loaded, processed, and cooled in a mechanical sterilizer
4. Storage—Wrapped instruments are kept safe from contaminants in a closed cabinet
A place for everything, and everything in its place
Prefabricated, customizable sterilization centers are designed to make this process intuitive, allowing you to accommodate a wide range of equipment and storage needs as well as the requisite plumbing and electrical connections. And it’s not just organization for the sake of neatness. Efficiency increases safety, especially if you eliminate manual washing, which greatly reduces potential for injury and exposure to bodily fluids. Efficiency also ensures accuracy, since instrument processing becomes almost automatic in nature, and therefore perfectly executed time after time. As a result, staff members waste less labor, saving on your biggest cost, and you have on-demand access to instruments in a predictable way, all day, every day.
Designed for dental is better, and cost-efficient in the long run
Why not simply save money by purchasing ordinary cabinetry or shelving? That’s a good question, and the answer comes down to two important factors: how much safety you’ll compromise, and how much additional money you’ll end up spending down the road.
Sterilization centers are warm, moist environments by nature. There’s nothing that can be done about that. However, by choosing a sterilization center from a specialist dental equipment manufacturer, you’ll be getting something built to withstand the rigors of dental use that can cause ordinary materials to degrade and harbor harmful bacteria or pathogens. That means liberal use of heat and moisture resistant, high-tech materials as well as cabinets designed to seal processed instruments away from recontamination. Finally, you can be assured that you’re taking a “do it once, do it right” approach that costs more upfront but saves money on repairs or replacement later on. You’ll also be more likely to remain compliant with OSHA, CDC, state and local guidelines and standards without having to worry.
What’s the ideal?
Hospitals use the same workflow as dental practices, but with one important difference: they confine cleaning and decontamination to a closed, dedicated room with negative air pressure. Why? For the same reason our hypothetical restaurant’s kitchen keeps the dirty dishes away from all the fresh food.
While dentistry isn’t required to follow the same guidelines as hospitals, it’s beneficial to do so if you can since it enables staff to retrieve clean instruments and supplies without entering sterilization, thereby reducing the risk of cross-contamination via air or surfaces. If you can confine steps one to three to a closed room, you’re not only locking away all the dirty stuff, you’re also driving one-way traffic to further increase efficiency. Closed spaces boost the effectiveness of air purifiers, so you can cost-effectively use freestanding air purifiers to achieve negative air pressure and exhaust contaminated air.
Step four can be done by using a simple pass-through window from your ‘dirty’ room to your adjacent clean storage area. It doesn’t have to be a room-sized area necessarily, just large enough to accommodate the storage of clean cassettes in dedicated cabinetry. Hospital standards dictate that the clean storage room should contain positive air pressure, or an increased supply of clean air relative to surrounding rooms.
Your dental practice stericenter can save time
It used to be that stericenters were ‘cookie cutter’ designs, and you simply picked the biggest one you could afford or fit in your space and made the best of it. Those days are long gone. Today’s stericenter manufacturers will work closely with your interior designers and equipment sales rep to achieve a totally customized system, using modular individual pieces, at a very attractive price.
The process starts by taking a close look at your current practice, number of operatories, patient load and other factors. Stericenter manufacturers, together with your dealer, will apply proven formulas to ensure that your new equipment and cabinetry will deliver the safety, predictability and efficiency worthy of your investment. In addition, they can future-proof your stericenter by predicting your future needs so you can simply add on as needed later, rather than potentially facing the expensive prospect of a complete do-over.
Downtime doesn’t have to be downer
Maybe you’re thinking, “I’d love to do that, but how long will installation take?” That’s important, especially if you’re renovating an existing practice. Installing the stericenter and equipment typically take less time that removing the old units, demolishing/rebuilding walls and entry/exit points, and installing plumbing, electric, flooring, HVAC, etc. That said, it’s possible to complete the entire process over the course of a vacation when your practice would be shut down anyway. You might also be able to use a colleague’s practice for instrument processing temporarily if you need to stay open for part of the renovation. The important thing to remember is that a few weeks of inconvenience now will add safety and efficiency that will benefit your practice each and every day.
The perfect recipe
Benco Dental has everything you need to create the ideal stericenter—plus the experts to help you choose the right products, design your environment, and keep it all running smoothly and efficiently for many years to come. We offer cabinetry and equipment at various price points to suit your budget, as well as many choices of styles and brands so you can customize until your heart’s content. Just like a restaurant’s kitchen, everything else your practice does depends on its stericenter. So if you can, make your stericenter a top priority when designing your new practice. And for existing practices, now is a great time to give it the attention it deserves, especially since Section 179 tax benefits and attractive financing rates will help it pay for itself sooner than ever before.