Don’t be let down by inadequate instrument loading – David Gibson

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  Posted by: Dental Design      2nd July 2018

David Gibson considers the impact of instrument loading and transfer containers on infection control compliance as well as the different options available. 


In various aspects of life, the implementation of a correct and safe loading process is integral to achieving optimal results. When using a dishwasher you wouldn’t carelessly stack your dirty plates and cups haphazardly on top of one another, nor would you put all your loose cutlery in a container that is impenetrable by water. Otherwise how would they get clean?


Well, the same rules apply to instrument management in the dental practice. Though unlike improperly cleaned kitchen crockery – which while it may be an annoying scenario, has little bearing on safety – improper processing of dental instruments can result in cross-contamination and compromise the safety of patients and professionals alike. Only by taking the right steps can you ensure complete containment of the product during all stages of the decontamination process, prevent recontamination and protect the instruments from potential deterioration and damage.


Whether you choose to use a tray or a cassette is entirely up to you – HTM 01-05 does not state a preference as long as they are packaged, transported, handled and stored correctly. Here are some of the main points and top tips for both methods:



  • If you intend to process loose instruments on trays take care to package properly so that the load is properly contained. Both peel apart pouches and bags are accepted options per HTM 01-05 guidelines for single instruments or small loads.
  • Ensure instruments are not touching each other, hinged instruments are open and hollows are suitable for processing using the appropriate cycle.
  • For larger loads, the guidelines refer to a header bag with a heat-sealed permeable closure.
  • Where a Type N steriliser is in use, instruments must not be wrapped until after the sterilisation process has taken place, and then can only be stored in an aseptic condition.
  • Trays with a perforated base and sides are a must as they prevent the pooling of water and improve steam penetration and air circulation.
  • Using stainless steel trays instead of coloured aluminium trays helps to prevent fading of the anodised coating when in the washer disinfector. They’re also stronger, more durable and have greater resistance to contaminant absorption.


HFiT Cassettes

  • The down side of trays is that the instruments are at greater risk of getting scratched, distorted or bent. Using hands-free instrument transfer cassettes that hold the instruments securely in place can prevent this, thereby increasing instrument longevity.
  • Cassettes also lessen handling of instruments, which reduces the risk of sharps injuries. Plus, as sharps can perforate paper and plastic wraps, cassettes help to decrease the need for repackaging and sterilisation.
  • Like trays, cassettes must be wrapped prior to sterilisation otherwise the instruments will not remain sterile during storage.
  • After sterilisation the contents remain inside the cassette until use. Where instruments are properly organised by type or procedure the dental team can transfer cassettes straight from storage to chairside ready for use, saving time and increasing efficiency.


To help practices achieve complete compliance and improve safety, workflow efficiency and instrument longevity, Eschmann offers an instrument Management System (EiMS) that includes Hands Free instrument Transfer (HFiT) cassettes and a variety of trays with protective lids. All products are colour-coded to facilitate instrument inventory and traceability within the practice and come in a variety of sizes. For more defined sets of instruments per autoclave load, Eschmann provides Examination size trays and cassettes that are designed to hold one complete instrument set, enough for a single patient. With the Examination size instrument Management solutions, practices can remove the risk of overloading or mixing instruments, which is common with full size trays, making inventory management more intuitive.


The use of appropriate and effective accessories when transferring and loading instruments during decontamination is essential to achieving efficient infection control in the dental practice. Quality is also important, for you could have the very best autoclave in the world, but if your accessories are damaged or poor quality your hard work will all be for nothing.


For absolute infection prevention and control, consider your loading and transfer protocols.








For more information on the highly effective and affordable range of decontamination equipment and products from EschmannDirect, please visit or call 01903 753322


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