Recently, dental equipment sterilisation has become a hot topic in Singapore. The first case happened at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH).
Eight packs of dental instruments that had not been fully sterilised may have been used on up to eight patients at the hospital's dental clinic.
There was another separate incident that took place last year when the National Dental Centre Singapore (NDCS) used dental instruments which were not fully sterilized. These may have been used on up to 72 patients!
Clinics usually use autoclave machines
White autoclave in sterilisation room in a clinic
According to DxD community member and dentist, Dr Joanne Lam, clinics usually have an autoclave machine ‘on-site’ in order to properly sterilise instruments. 
Otherwise, they may engage 3rd party contractors to assist in the sterilisation process.
At TTSH, it starts with manual washing comes
According to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, their first step of sterilisation involves manual washing and ultrasonic machine sonication.
Then, the instruments are usually air-dried, packed, sealed, and labelled before it enters the next phase. This is to ensure an added measure of sterilisation is applied.
The final step involves steam sterilisation
This was the step that was missing for the affected instruments at TTSH. It involves putting sealed instruments through steam sterilisation to remove bacterial spores.
Most of the time, equipment is freshly sterilised for each patient
Dr Joanne emphasised that all trays and equipment are definitely freshly sterilised for each patient.
Nurses might lay the instruments out on the tray in preparation before a patient enters the room but that doesn't necessarily mean instruments aren't clean.
The Health Ministry is following up on safety concerns
In light of these incidents, MOH has stated that it will be rendering support in order to implement additional control measures.
In addition, they are asking management departments of public healthcare institutions to review their processes in all areas concerning sterilisation. Staff are also required to be fully-compliant with regards to these processes.
Article medically reviewed by Dr Joanne Lam.