With Infection Control workshops and seminars being all the rage right now, one particular topic keeps popping up; ‘How clean is clean?’. We know how critical the cleaning phase of the whole process is but how do we “measure” just how clean our dental instruments are.
The truth is there is no specific way to measure just how clean things are when we manually clean dental handpieces and hand instruments. This will differ from person to person: different techniques, different strengths and different levels of motivation. For example, your cleaning technique will differ depending on your mood, day of the week and how well you have been trained in cleaning. You may be the most experienced sterilisation technician, but there are many hard to reach areas within dental instruments you just can’t access. The triplex syringe tip for example on a dental handpiece. How do we get cleaning brushes to access the internals of these items effectively? Then there is the water – hot, cold, warm, pure? Drying? Air, towel or rack/cabinet? What’s more, the protocols upon which current research on cleaning techniques is based can also become a challenge for us.
The discussion of mechanical cleaning (thermal washing) is becoming more relevant and it’s becoming more important we consider implementing this method in our sterilisation rooms. These units can provide a thorough cleaning process which meets all the requirements of modern-day needs whilst being able to validate the load in order to physically measure just how clean the instruments are after the cleaning cycle. They may seem like an expensive investment, to begin with, but in the long run, it is actually more cost-effective. Not only does thermal washing provide a far superior clean but both the time and running costs are far less than manual cleaning.
There are many washer disinfectors now in the market. Some compact, some quick. However, with the investment needed to place one into our working surgeries, it is important to make sure you are investing in one that meets all the current requirements and standards as well as suiting a budget.
Remember, if your instruments aren’t cleaned properly then sterilisation will not do anything. You, your staff, and your patients may be at risk of cross-infection/contamination.