An ultrasonic cleaner is one of the methods recommended by the Centers for Disease Control as the first step to remove tissue, blood and other contaminants from reusable instruments such as found in dental offices. Ultrasonic energy creates billions of minute bubbles in an ultrasonic cleaning bath that implode with tremendous force when they contact dental instruments. The process, called cavitation, reaches into tiny cracks and crevices, literally blasting contaminants away from the surface in a much more efficient manner than manual scrubbing, which has the additional disadvantage of requiring personnel to handle dirty instruments.
Only after a thorough ultrasonic cleaning should instruments move to the second and third stage: disinfecting and sterilization. That is because residue will interfere with microbial inactivation and can compromise subsequent processes, according to the CDC.
An Example of Cleaning Procedures
Bench or table-top ultrasonic cleaners such as the Elmasonic E60H available from Tovatech are ideal for dental clinics. It can be used to clean instruments such as picks, drills, mold spoons; prostheses such as dentures and crowns, and to remove cement and plaster.
Until instruments are ready to be cleaned keep them immersed in either a germicidal or enzymatic presoak such as PreZyme. Do not let instruments dry out before cleaning.
Use an ultrasonic cleaning solution formulated for cleaning medical and dental instruments. While one might think a disinfectant solution is ideal for such applications in fact a disinfectant can make contaminants such as proteins harder to remove. Instead employ a detergent or enzyme solution for these applications such as Ultradose Ultrasonic Cleaning Solution diluted per instructions on the container.
Objects to be cleaned are placed in a mesh tray or basket that is suspended by its handles into the ultrasonic cleaning solution so that the instruments are fully immersed. Cleaning time (typically 7 to 10 minutes depending on the size of the load) and the temperature are set using the intuitive control panel and the unit turned on. Note that solution temperatures should be kept below 42°C (107⁰F). Otherwise particles could “bake” on the instruments and cannot be removed by sterilization.
When the ultrasonic cleaning cycle is completed, rinse the instruments in water to remove solution residue and then move to the disinfecting and sterilizing steps to complete the process. As an interim step Barrier Milk can be used to lubricate hinges and prevent corrosion.
The ultrasonic cleaning solution should be changed at least once a day and the tank thoroughly cleaned and allowed to dry before being refilled with fresh solution. Follow the Instructions provided by manufacturers of ultrasonic cleaning equipment and solutions. A side-mounted knob on the E60H is turned to drain used cleaning solution via a valve on the back of the unit.
Dental offices that apply ultrasonic energy to cleaning dental instruments should see increased productivity and cleaning effectiveness while reducing staff exposure to dangerous contaminants.
How are dental instruments cleaned in your practice or clinic?