I was taught in school to use a “cold sterilization” solution for reprocessing certain instruments. I see that this practice is not recommended in recent infection control guidelines. What is different today from years ago?

In health care settings, cold sterilization refers to the practice of immersion (liquid chemical) disinfection used to reprocess reusable instruments or items for patient care. This practice was not a true, sterilization procedure which could be biologically monitored and is no longer appropriate for reprocessing heat-stable medical instruments. In addition, “chemical immersion sterilants,” such as glutaraldehydes can be toxic and allergenic to those health care workers who use them.

As a result of improved technology and manufacturing, virtually every reusable dental instrument in current use is heat stable, and thus, should be appropriately cleaned, wrapped, and sterilized between uses with a heat-based, biologically monitored sterilizer, such as an autoclave, unsaturated chemical vapor sterilizer, or dry heat sterilizer.