Dental sterilizers, or autoclaves, are used in dentistry to sterilize dental equipment and instruments. The aim of such devices is to provide clean and sterile equipment that dental practitioners can employ to their benefit on a daily basis. The process involves a series of steps that must be followed in a specified order to attain maximum effectiveness in the sterilization task. Here, we shall outline the types of sterilizers used in the current industry, how maximum efficiency can be attained from using them, and how to treat them with some tender loving care so that they may run for a longer period of time.
Three Types of Dental Sterilizers:
- Steam sterilizers (Autoclave)
- How it works – Water is heated in a closed chamber, creating pressure. The heat that is generated acts as the sterilizing agent.
- Types of steam sterilizers – Gravity displacement, vacuum-assisted, and positive steam flush with pressure pulses.
- Advantages – Product familiarity, larger capacity, and shorter cycles.
- Disadvantages – Spots created by hard water, necessity for drying instrument packages, corrosion of carbon steel items, damage to heat-sensitive rubber and plastic items, and problems with closed containers.
- Unsaturated chemical vapor sterilizers (Chemical)
- How it works – Killing vapor is generated using a cocktail of chemicals or a special chemical solution rather than water
- Advantages – Negligible or absentee of corrosion of carbon steel items, which dry quickly after the cycle is completed.
- Disadvantages – Possible damage to rubber or plastic items during the cycle and special requirements for storage and handling and disposal of sterilizing solution, which is flammable.
- Dry heat sterilizers
- How it works – Air is heated and the resulting heat energy is transferred to instruments. There is a need for temperatures that are higher than steam or unsaturated chemical vapor sterilizers.
- Types – Static air model and rapid heat transfer or forced-air models.
- Advantages – Minimal corrosion of carbon steel items that remain dry toward the end of the cycle.
- Disadvantages – Harm to plastic and rubber items, necessity for instruments to be dry when loaded, and dramatic decline in temperature caused by opening the door during the process.
How Long Does the Dental Sterilization Cycle Last?
This question does not have a definite answer and is the most often asked question by dental service personnel. Time needed to efficiently complete the process depends on whether the sterilizer is performing optimally. It also depends on adequate temperature and pressure that is maintained for the cycle. Here are some approximate temperatures and time taken for sterilization using different sterilizers. Note that these figures are approximate and can differ to a slight extent.
|Steam||15 to 30 minutes||250°F to 270°F|
|Unsaturated vapour||20 minutes||270°F|
|Dry-heat||60 to 120 minutes||320°F|
How to Treat Your Dental Sterilizer with Some Tender Loving Care
If you have been using the method described in the user manual, then good job! If you wish to try out a new method, refer to the steps mentioned below. Note that this method works best with a warm chamber.
Step 1: Buy a cleaning product that contains traces of calcium, lime, and iron oxide deposits. Purchase a scrub pad also.
Step 2: Find a spacious area for cleaning.
Step 3: Pour some of the cleaning product directly into the warm chamber, spreading it over the bottom half of the chamber. Let it soak for several minutes and then scrub the chamber with the scrub pad.
Step 4: Pour a small amount of the cleaning product into the reservoir.
Step 5: Run two cycles of regular length and abort any cycle that permits automatic drying.
Step 6: Drain reservoir. Refill with distilled water and run a short cycle.
Remember to use a wet cloth to wipe the door gasket on a weekly basis.
About the Author
Ashley Kinsela is a professional blogger, with expertise in dental systems and techniques, as well as business practices.