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how to sterilise dental handpieces

by:Golden Promise     2023-06-02

Dental handpieces are essential instruments for every dental practice. They are used to run various procedures, including caries removal, shaping, and polishing. However, like any other dental tool, these instruments require thorough sterilization to prevent the spread of infections from one patient to another. In this article, we will explore the different methods of sterilizing dental handpieces.


1. Importance of Sterilizing Dental Handpieces


Research has shown that the use of contaminated dental instruments can cause severe infections leading to a substantial number of hospitalizations and even deaths. Dental handpieces are known to be a source of bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. Hence, sterilization is the single most crucial process in ensuring patient safety and effective infection control in dental practices.


2. Pre-sterilization Procedure


Before the sterilization process start, the dental handpieces must be properly cleaned to remove any visible debris or contaminants. The instruments should be hand washed or placed in an ultrasonic cleaner. An ultrasonic cleaner uses high-frequency sound waves to remove dirt and debris that may be trapped in hard-to-reach areas. After cleaning, the dental handpieces should be rinsed thoroughly with distilled water before proceeding to the sterilization process.


3. Autoclaving


Autoclaving is the most common and effective method of sterilizing dental handpieces. It involves the use of an autoclave machine that uses high pressure and steam to kill all microorganisms that may be present on the surface of the instrument. The process maintains high temperatures between 121-134C and over 15 PSI of pressure that inactivates both vegetative forms and spores. Autoclaving also ensures that the instruments remain free of contamination until the next use. Dental handpieces should be packaged to keep them sterile until they are used again.


4. Chemical Sterilization


Chemical sterilization is another effective method of sterilizing dental handpieces. It involves immersing the instruments in a sterilization solution for a specified duration. This method is a popular choice for practices that do not have access to autoclaving machines. However, it's important to check that the solution can inactivate both spores and vegetative forms of organisms. Some commonly used solutions include glutaraldehyde, hydrogen peroxide, and ortho-phthalaldehyde.


5. Dry Heat Sterilization


Dry heat sterilization involves the use of a sterilization oven, which heats the dental handpieces to a high temperature of between 160-180C for at least one hour. This method is not as popular as other methods since it requires high temperatures that might damage the dental handpieces. Additionally, the process takes longer, and it's not effective on instruments that contain lubricants. Therefore, it's essential to choose a method that complies with the manufacturer's recommendation to avoid damaging the handpiece.


In conclusion, sterilizing dental handpieces is a necessary procedure in any dental practice. It ensures patient safety and effective infection control by reducing the likelihood of transmitting harmful pathogens from one patient to another. Adopting the right sterilization procedure depends on the type of handpieces used. Regardless of the method used, dental handpieces must be cleaned, lubricated, sterilized, and packaged appropriately before being used again. Therefore, dental practices should always follow the manufacturer's instructions and seek recommendations from experienced dental professionals to ensure the effectiveness of the sterilization process.

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