Sterilization equipment is vital to prevent cross-contamination and infections in dental practice.
The human mouth is covered in bacteria. As a result, these microorganisms can spread during dental procedures. When dental instruments enter the oral cavity, these bacteria can migrate and colonize it. When these instruments are not properly cleaned and sterilized between patients, they can spread infection and cause diseases or other conditions.
Fortunately, sterilization equipment allows professionals to remove all bacteria from the instruments. Therefore, leaving them ready to be used on another patient in just a few minutes.
Sterilization equipment is easy to use and can be installed in any clinical environment. This way, the dentist can always be ready to treat patients without any risk of contamination. Moreover, there are many disinfection methods, protocols, and sterilization devices, such as autoclave sterilizers, dry heat sterilizers, denture flask cleaners, and UV sterilizer cabinets.
Different Types Of Sterilization Equipment
Sterilization of dental equipment is usually done with either dry heat or steam. Both types of equipment are capable of achieving the same results. However, they work under slightly different principles.
● Autoclave sterilizer (steam sterilization):
Autoclave sterilization is the most common method in dental offices. The autoclave uses steam to kill bacteria on the instruments placed inside of it.
When the autoclave sterilizer door is closed, the temperature rises inside it as steam is produced. This also causes the pressure to increase. As a result, the bacteria's protein structure is destroyed. Therefore, leaving the instrument sterile.
Autoclave sterilizers should operate at 250 - 275°F (120 - 135°C) to properly sterilize the instruments. Furthermore, the sterilization time varies according to the set temperature and how the instruments are placed inside the autoclave. Nonetheless, the sterilization cycle takes around 15 - 30 minutes. Afterward, it is necessary to wait another 20 - 40 minutes for the drying cycle to finish.
● Dry heat sterilizer:
Dry heat sterilizers work similarly to an oven. The temperature inside the chamber increases through convection. This causes hot air to rise inside of it to sterilize the instruments.
The air inside these sterilizers can be static or circulate around to ensure complete sterilization.
Dry heat sterilizers operate at 300 - 375°F (160 - 180°C) for optimal sterilization. The sterilization time can range from 30 to 150 minutes, depending on the temperature.
Additional Methods To Ensure Proper Sterilization
The sterilization process should be accompanied by other methods to further increase its effectiveness. Support methods, such as ultrasonic cleaners and UV sterilizers, have proven to be highly useful in the disinfection process.
● Ultrasonic yakachena:
An ultrasonic kuchenesa can help disinfect dental instruments before placing them inside a sterilizer.
Although sterilization equipment ensures that dental instruments are clean and safe for use, they must be washed before sterilizing them.
This step is essential since the instruments tend to pick up bioburden from the oral cavity after each use. Bioburdens are biological residues from blood, saliva, plaque, or food.
If these residues can harden and attach to the instruments if they are not removed before sterilization. This can also compromise the sterilization's effectiveness.
While bioburden can be removed manually, an ultrasonic cleaner makes the process automatic and straightforward.
Ultrasonic cleaners work under a cavitation process. The dentist places the instruments on a tray inside the device. This tray is filled with a specialized solution that helps disinfect dental instruments without corroding them.
When the device is on, it emits ultrasonic waves into the liquid. This creates millions of tiny bubbles that explode with high pressure upon contact with the instrument. These bubbles remove anything that could be stuck to it. Moreover, the bubbles can reach and clean any small crevice on the instrument's surface.
The entire process takes around 10 minutes to complete. After it is done, the instruments must be rinsed with fresh water to remove disinfectant residues and leave them to dry.
The instruments are finally ready to be sterilized after they dry.
● UV sterilizer cabinet and UV disinawani mwenje:
UV germicidal radiation is an excellent disinfecting method. It can be used as an extra safety step during sterilization or to keep the environment clean and free of airborne bacteria and viruses.
This disinfecting method uses UV-C light to get rid of bacteria. The wavelength of this light is usually around 254 nm which is strong enough to initiate a photochemical reaction that kills bacteria.
The UV-C light emits electromagnetic energy that affects all the harmful bacteria that come in contact with it.
Additionally, UV sterilization cabinets offer the perfect way to enhance the sterilization process for dental instruments. They can be used to disinfect dental instruments before placing them in the autoclave.
To begin the disinfection process, the instruments are placed on trays inside the cabinet. When turned on, it emits UV-C light to kill bacteria. However, it only affects the instrument's surfaces that are in direct contact with the light.
Still, UV-C lights offer a highly effective solution to sterilize water and fluids.
On the other hand, UV disinfection lamps can be used to maintain the dental office clean. They work under the same principle as the UV sterilization cabinet. However, in this case, it kills any airborne bacteria in the environment that passes through its light.
Nonetheless, these lamps must be properly installed in the right areas and used by trained personnel. Since UV light can be harmful to humans, these lamps must be used with care. However, the severity of the safety concerns depends on the lamps' wavelength and exposure.
Direct and prolonged exposure to these lamps might cause eye and skin damage.
● Dental water distillers:
Using distilled water instead of regular water is one of the best ways to protect the patient. Distilled water is free of bacteria or any other undesired elements.
Dental water distillers transform regular tap water into distilled water through a boiling mechanism. This water can be then used on the autoclave sterilizer or the dental unit's water lines.