April 18, 2019
How it works
A friend’s daughter recently began her dental journey as a Dental Assistant. In her first week, she spoke of the intense learning curve surrounding infection control in a Dental Practice. As she became more familiar with all the required processes involved for the practice to remain compliant, her loudest comment was all about cleaning the dental instruments.
“Surely there is an easier way to clean the instruments than standing at the sink and brushing, brushing, brushing….?”
What if she could just put all the instruments into a tank filled with water and a suitable detergent, press a button and come back later to remove the instruments in a sparkling clean condition?
Hey presto – the ultrasonic cleaner!
How does it work?
Often, we feel a ‘proper’ clean can only be achieved with physical or manual labour. However, an ultrasonic cleaner uses a scientific technique which is laboratory tested to be highly effective.
After submerging the dental instruments in a volume of water with some detergent, the unit cleans or ‘scrubs’ the instruments by way of millions of microscopic vacuum bubbles.
Transducers are attached to the tank. Then, through the electric power supply, the transducers vibrate super fact – in fact, at around 40,000 to 50,000 times per second. Of course, this is not visible to the human eye!
The vibrations send sound waves up through the liquid in the tank and produce millions of microscopic vacuum bubbles. As each bubble forms, it eventually gets too big and collapses. The collapse sends out shockwaves which ‘shake off’ the dirt and contamination.
Ultrasonic cleaners are great for cleaning in between lumens, hinges, joints and serrations and other pretty much impossible areas to scrub by hand.
NB: Not all instruments can be cleaned ultrasonically so check the manufacturer’s instructions.
Don’t I need to scrub the instruments before they are placed in the ultrasonic cleaner?
Sometimes, there will be pieces of composite or other materials that have hardened onto the end of a plastic instrument or something similar. No amount of ultrasonic cleaning will get that off! That blob of composite will have to be carefully cleaned off before being placed in the ultrasonic cleaner.
Remember, the ultrasonic cleaner does the ‘scrubbing’ for you, so you don’t have to manually scrub every instrument then place them in the ultrasonic cleaner. That’s doubling handling and not necessary.
However, keep in mind that instruments should be rinsed as soon as possible to prevent the biological materials from increasing in numbers and to prevent any soil from hardening.
During the patient’s appointment, if practical, wipe instruments chairside. And in the Steri room, rinse major contamination off instruments before placing instruments in ultrasonic cleaner. Be careful not to splash.
If the dirty instruments can’t be cleaned right away, place the instruments in a container of detergent and water until you can get to them.
- Infection Control