If you look at the guidelines and rules of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Texas State Board of Dental Examiners (TSBDE), and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you’ll see they clearly concur on the protocol for single-use and disposable patient care items.

When handling dental patient-care items labeled as single-use, the CDC recommends—and many state dental boards require—single-use or disposable devices be used on one patient only and then discarded.

TSBDE Rules for infection prevention and control are based on CDC guidelines.1 TSBDE’s rule is clear:

“Disposable (non-resterilizable) items, including but not limited to gloves, needles, intravenous fluids, intravenous administration tubing, intravenous catheters/needles, and like items, shall not be used in the treatment of more than one patient.”

FDA2 guidance3 states:
“A single-use device, also referred to as a disposable device, is intended for use on one patient during a single procedure.” Further, “It is not intended to be reprocessed (cleaned, disinfected/sterilized) and used on another patient. The labeling may or may not identify the device as single-use or disposable and does not include instructions for reprocessing.”

Single-use items in dentistry are usually not heat-tolerant and often cannot be reliably cleaned. Such items include syringe needles, prophylaxis angles, cups, and brushes, tips for high-speed evacuators, saliva ejectors, and air/water syringe tips.

If a patient-care device does not have reprocessing instructions, it should be considered single-use and disposed of after one use. Contaminated needles must be disposed as sharps waste in approved sharps containers. Other non-sharp, disposable items can usually be disposed in the regular trash. Always consult with the manufacturer’s instructions or label to determine whether or not a dental patient-care item is disposable.

Not following the infection control “standard of care” can lead to unwanted exposure to transmissible infections during dental treatment.

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1 Guidelines for Infection Control in Dental Health–Care Settings – 2003 and its subsequent 2016 Summary of Infection Prevention Practices in Dental Settings: Basic Expectations for Safe Care
2The FDA regulates medical devices, including dental instruments, sold in the United States to assure their safety and effectiveness.
3Labeling Recommendations for Single-Use Devices Reprocessed by Third Parties and Hospitals