Proper Cleaning on an Intraoral Camera
Every aspect of infection control is important in a dentist’s office, but so is protecting and preserving the expensive tools necessary for proper diagnosis and treatment. After all, a craftsman, even one whose craft is health, is only as good as his tools.
The intraoral dental camera presents a unique set of challenges to the dentist. The camera is exposed to patients saliva and blood, making it a potentially a prime source of contamination that must be treated as such and properly decontaminated after each use. At the same time, it is an intricate and delicate machine, more sensitive to the types of sterilization generally used on dentists’ tools. In short, the electronics can’t get too wet and the lens can be toasted in an autoclave or other heat-based sterilization process.
Any failure to follow the exact process can result in damage to the very expensive piece of equipment or potential cross-contamination between patients. Neither is an acceptable risk.
Given those restrictions, training staff members in the proper cleaning of an intraoral camera is a high priority.
Step 1: Dispose of the camera sheath
While it can be tempting to attempt to clean and reuse the camera sheath, this piece is designed to be single use. It should be disposed of after every use of the intraoral camera. There is no safe way to cleanse and reuse this piece of the camera. Never use the camera without a new camera sheath in place and never attempt to clean one that has been previously used. This is an important part of infection-control and should always be observed, even when examining members of the same family or spouses.
Step 2: Check the owner’s manual.
Falling victim to the old joke that no one ever reads instructions can be devastating to the longevity of medical equipment. Each intraoral camera is different and may have different specifications regarding whether or not to touch the lens while cleaning. Some brands specify that the lens can be gently wiped off with an alcohol wipe while others recommend against ever touching the lens.
In general, the important thing to remember is that the lens is a camera lens. Don’t do anything to it that a regular camera couldn’t withstand. In particular, avoid using dry cloth on the lens as it may cause miniscule scratches on the lens. While the scratches may not be visible to the naked eye, the can affect the quality of images received. Just as important, when a smooth surface becomes damaged in any way, it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. If helps, think of the camera lens as the enamel on a tooth: yes, it needs to be cleaned, but it must be done gently to avoid future damage to the tooth.
Step 3: Place the camera on a disposable liner or tray that can be thoroughly disinfected.
After each patient, the process for cleaning the camera should be followed so precisely that staff members can recite and follow the process in their sleep. The camera should be placed on an unused disposable liner or sterile surface and then the staff member should discard the disposable gloves used during the camera’s use. Staff members should be encouraged to wash their hands, even though they were covered with gloves, in case the gloves had imperfections which allowed contaminants to reach the staff member’s skin.
After thoroughly washing her hands, the staff member should don fresh gloves and then disconnect the camera from the USB cable.
Step 4: Visually inspect the camera for contamination.
While sterilizing the camera after every use is always important, it can be doubly so if the camera or USB cable has been contaminated with blood or saliva. If either is present, wash with mild soap on a cloth or paper towel and then dry with a lint-free towel.
Step 5: Wipe the Lensiora intraoral camera down (and cable if needed) with Cavi-Wipes or other appropriate disinfecting wipes designed for this purpose. Lysol wipes from the grocery store are not appropriate!
Wait at least 30 seconds. This allows the first application to dry. Then, using a fresh wipe, disinfect the camera a second time.
Step 6: Rinse gently with a sterile lab sponge soaked in de-ionized water while avoiding the lens
The chemicals used for the sterilization process can create a buildup of deposits, just like plaque, on the Lensiora camera. Prevent this by rinsing with de-ionized water on a sterile sponge. Be careful that the sponge is not excessively wet as moisture can be detrimental to the sensitive electronics of the Lensiora intraoral dental camera. Use a dry sterile lab sponge to remove excess moisture.
Step 7: Replace the camera in a clean environment, reconnect the USB cable and replace the disposable camera sheath. Discard used gloves.
The proper cleaning of a dental intraoral camera is more involved than simply setting metal tools aside to be sterilized in an autoclave. The temptation to make sure the camera is clean by heat-sterilization can be great, but will generally result in the need to buy a new camera. The extreme heat used in heat-sterilization will either fry the electronic components of the camera or warp the lens, resulting in inaccurate images.
Despite the common belief otherwise, chemical sterilization is just as effective as heat sterilization and safer for delicate equipment when each step of the procedure is followed accurately every time.
Another fatal mistake for cleaning an intraoral camera is to immerse the camera in chemical sterilization fluids. As with any delicate electronics, immersion in fluid can potentially allow liquid to reach the electronics inside, causing the camera to short circuit because the liquid on the electronics is not completely dried. Or, the liquid can penetrate the region near the lens, leaving a liquid residue on the lens, causing clouding of the lens.
The proper cleaning of intraoral cameras is precise and demanding, much like other parts of proper dental care. Dentists consistently tell their patients not to skimp on their oral hygiene; this is one of the many times that following their own advice is vitally important.