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The term sterile means being free of germs and disease-causing agents. Sterilization refers to the process by which living microorganisms are removed from materials and objects. The goal of product sterilization is to kill all microorganisms and spores. In addition, viruses, prions (infectious proteins), plasmids, and other DNA fragments are destroyed. This makes a sterilized product noninfectious, meaning one cannot catch diseases from it. In modern medicine there are many costs which are “hidden” from the patient, that is to say about which the patients may not be aware, such as sterilizing costs, for example. We’d just like to present you with a small overview here so that you can better understand the costs that a dental clinic incurs since it’s not just the crowns that you pay for.

Steam sterilization (heating in an autoclave) is a standard procedure in most hospitals and private setups. Here is the sterilizer being loaded with surgical containers holding items to be sterilized. After sterilization, the containers serve as sterile storage until they are opened for the next patient treatment. The materials to be sterilized are treated under pressure for a certain period of time and at a certain temperature. For prion destruction, the materials being sterilized should be heated to 134°C for 18 minutes at three times atmospheric pressure (43.5 psi). The air in the autoclave interior is completely replaced with steam. These sterile conditions are only guaranteed with category B sterilizers; these create a vacuum inside the sterilizing unit before the process begins. This means that air is sucked out and replaced by steam. This guarantees that the materials being sterilized are completely surrounded by steam, an important requirement for sterilization. After sterilization, the containers are removed from the autoclave and the surgical instruments are prepared for upcoming patient treatment. The picture illustrates a surgical container in which the instruments are neatly stored. Sometimes, the instruments are sealed inside a special paper package that allows for short-term sterile storage. However, if the package is damaged, the instrument immediately becomes nonsterile. Sterile instruments are useless if nonsterile covers are used. There are different options in terms of sterile covers. The use of disposable covers is safe as these are sterilized by manufacturers through radiation and are thus free of germs. Prior to surgery, the instruments are sorted on a sterile disposable cover that serves as padding.