Ultrasonic cleaners are important contributors to achieving strict infection control procedures in dental clinics. Reusable dental instruments in contact with the patient’s blood and tissue must undergo a rigid three-part procedure that first removes gross contaminants, then thorough scrubbing/washing, and finally either sterilizing or disinfecting. The role of an ultrasonic cleaner in cleaning dental instruments comes into play in the middle of this cycle
Hazards of Manually Scrubbing Sharp or Pointed Dental Instruments
Mechanical washers are not able to provide the thorough cleaning action delivered by ultrasonic energy – called ultrasonic cavitation – through the cavitation process, ultrasonic energy creates billions of minute vacuum bubbles in an ultrasonic cleaning bath that implode with tremendous force when they reach into tiny cracks and crevices, quickly and safely blasting loose and carrying away contaminants on dental instrument surfaces. Dental instrument ultrasonic cleaners are faster, safer, and more efficient than mechanical washers or manually scrubbing sharp and pointed instruments.
Only after a thorough ultrasonic cleaning should dental instruments move to the second and third stage: disinfecting or sterilization then packaging.
In summary, a dental instrument ultrasonic cleaner can be considered a “best practice” to remove these contaminants.
Selecting an Ultrasonic Cleaner for Dental Practices
Start out with cleaning tank size in terms of solution capacity and internal tank dimensions. You’ll want a tank that holds without crowding the number of instruments cleaned in a single cycle. Cleaning is accomplished in mesh baskets that have dimensions slightly less than internal tank dimensions.
Dental tools must be completely immersed in the solution. This relates to what is called the working depth of the tank, or the distance between the bottom of the basket and the surface of the cleaning solution.
Here we present a brief summary followed by other equipment options:
- Cleaning Tank Capacity: The internal dimensions of the tank are important, but more critical are the dimensions of the mesh basket that holds your instruments. Basket dimensions are slightly smaller than tank dimensions. Instruments must be completely immersed and should not be in contact with each other
- Ultrasonic Frequency: A frequency of 37 kHz or 37,000 cycles per second is ideal for most dental instrument cleaning requirements. Multi-frequency units are used for cleaning tasks such as difficult-to-remove contaminants (lower frequencies) or cleaning equipment with highly polished or complex surfaces (higher frequencies)
- Sweep: Sweep provides a slight ± variation in ultrasonic frequency to promote more uniform distribution of cleaning energy
- Pulse: Pulse provides a 20% increase in power to remove difficult-to-remove contaminants
- Temperature Controls: As noted above a high solution temperature can cause contaminants to bake on surfaces. The process of ultrasonic cavitation heats the solution. Long cleaning cycles may call for a cooling coil to control solution temperature. In other cases the ability to heat a solution may be helpful for other cleaning tasks
- Timer: A timer lets you set cleaning cycle duration and attend to other matters
Dental Ultrasonic Cleaner Models
A candidate ultrasonic cleaner is the 37 kHz 0.75-gallon capacity Elmasonic EP 30H. Its optional stainless steel mesh-bottom basket dimensions are 7.8 x 4.2 x 2 in. deep. A larger model with a 1.5-gallon capacity is the Elmasonic EP60H with an optional basket 10 x 4.5 x 3 in deep. These and other units in the Elma E+ series are equipped with a heater, timer, and permanent sweep for uniform cleaning.
They also have a power tracking feature that adjusts the cleaning power to the load in the basket and a dental technician-controlled pulse function that serves to degas fresh solutions and send bursts of increased power into the bath to attack tenacious contaminants.
For a cleaning solution, we suggest Elma Clean 55 concentrate for cleaning & disinfection suitable general and surgical instruments specially for rotating dental instruments. This is formulated to remove all contaminants common to dental instruments.
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