Why you Need an Ultrasonic Dental Cleaner

Ultrasonic Dental Instrument Cleaner

An ultrasonic cleaner is one of options recommended by the CDC to clean reusable dental instruments prior to sterilizing. Uniform sonication in an ultrasonic dental instrument cleaner provides added assurances that blood and tissues are thoroughly removed before sterilization. More on this below but first,

How Uniform Sonication Cleans Dental Instruments

Uniform sonication assures technicians in the central processing area that their dental instruments receive “equal treatment” regardless of their position in the ultrasonic cleaning bath.  An example of a dental instrument cleaner providing this advantage is the Elmasonic P30SE available from Elma. 

Research at Elma disclosed that key impediment to uniform sonication is interference due to the tank drain duct found on most benchtop ultrasonic cleaners.  This was visually demonstrated in a drain-equipped unit: ultrasonic cleaning action on the drain side of the tank was not nearly as vigorous as on the opposite side. 

Based on this, the 0.75 gallon P30SE has no drain assuring that powerful cleaning action on reusable dental instruments is uniform during the cleaning cycle.  The process is called homogeneous sonication.

Other Dental Instrument Cleaner Applications

Elmasonic P30SE

Ultrasonic dental cleaners are also required for

  • cleaning molds
  • removing plaster and cement used in fashioning  bridgework
  • cleaning implant hybrid prosthesis and similar restorative procedures  

The key word here is ultrasonic dental cleaning because there are other options.  Here you’ll learn why you need an ultrasonic dental instrument cleaner.

We explain:

  • Why pre-sterilization cleaning is important
  • How a dental ultrasonic cleaner works
  • How to operate an ultrasonic dental instrument cleaner
  • More Details on the P30SE ultrasonic dental instrument cleaner

Why Ultrasonic Dental Cleaning Before Sterilizing is Important

CDC Guidelines for infection protection practices in dental settings state “Cleaning to remove debris and organic contamination from instruments should always occur before disinfection or sterilization. If blood, saliva, and other contamination are not removed, these materials can shield microorganisms and potentially compromise the disinfection or sterilization process.” 

The reason for this is that heat applied during sterilizing can cause blood, tissue and other organic residues to “bake on” surfaces and cause infection problems during subsequent use of the instruments. 

Using a dental ultrasonic cleaner can be considered a “best practice” to remove these contaminants.  It is far superior to manual  cleaning – a process that risks infection-producing cuts from sharp surfaces. 

How a Dental Ultrasonic Cleaner Works

Ultrasonic energy creates billions of minute vacuum 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 dental instrument surfaces in a much more efficient manner than manual scrubbing, which, as noted,  has the additional disadvantage of requiring dental technicians to handle sharp instruments. 

Only after a thorough ultrasonic cleaning should  dental instruments move to the second and third stage:  disinfecting or sterilization then packaging. That is because residue will interfere with microbial inactivation and can compromise subsequent processes, according to the CDC.

How to Operate an Ultrasonic Dental Instrument Cleaner

Bench or table-top dental ultrasonic cleaners are available in several sizes.  Here we use the Elmasonic P30SE in our suggested procedures. 

  • 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 ultrasonic cleaning.
  • Use an ultrasonic cleaning solution formulated for cleaning 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.  An example is MedClean C7 medical and surgical instrument cleaner diluted to 1 to 3 ounces per gallon of water.  
  • Place the dental instruments* in a mesh basket and suspend it 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 or 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. 

Features and Benefits of the P30SE Dental Instrument Cleaner

The dual range 37/80 kHz frequency Elma P30SE allows dental technicians to select the lower frequency for removing particularly tenacious deposits such as plaster and cement, or 80 kHz for cleaning delicate and highly finished instruments, or for longer cleaning cycles.  The unit allows technicians to program an automatic 30-second frequency switch-over for simultaneous coarse and fine cleaning.

Housed in an attractive, easily cleaned stainless steel case, the Elmasonic P30SE offers these additional user-activated features to customize regularly used cleaning processes:

  • Time and temperature settings with “set” and “actual” shown on the LED display
  • A pulse mode for intermittent high-intensity bursts to remove stubborn deposits
  • A sweep mode for uniform distribution of cavitation action throughout the tank. (Note that Sweep enhances top-to-bottom uniformity of cavitation in the tank; eliminating the drain enhances side-to-side uniform sonication.)
  • A degas mode to remove air from fresh cleaning solutions
  • Adjustable ultrasonic power to match to sensitive surfaces
  • A pause function to examine or remove contents for inspection
  • Auto-start to initiate uniform sonication when the set bath temperature is reached
  • An automatic switch-off after 12 hours of continuous operation or if the bath reaches 90⁰C (194⁰F)

Set and actual parameters are shown on the control panel digital display.

Contact our ultrasonic cleaning professionals for more details on the P30SE ultrasonic cleaner and for answers to your questions on ultrasonic cleaning equipment and cleaning solutions.

*Chromium-plated instruments should not be cleaned ultrasonically.