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Ultrasonic Cleaners Reduce Infection Risk in Dental Procedures

A recent report in the leading British newspaper The Telegraph found that one in nine dentists did not take adequate precautions to prevent infection and cross-contamination from the their instruments. The Care Quality Commission (CQC), a government agency that oversees the nation's health care industry, found that 189 out of the 1,667 dental offices surveyed did not follow Department of Health regulations on how to clean their instruments after use.

Patients visiting these offices run the risk of contracting blood-borne diseases, such as hepatitis, HIV, and Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). Experts recommend that any instruments exposed to bodily fluids should be thoroughly cleaned before reuse. A major part of that cleaning routine involves the use of an ultrasonic cleaner, which can remove the particles of blood, skin, and saliva quickly and effectively, while maintaining the integrity of the sharp, delicate surface of the instruments.

How an Ultrasonic Cleaner Works

A bench top ultrasonic cleaner consists of a stainless steel tank with piezoelectric transducers attached to the bottom. The transducers change electrical energy into high frequency sound waves. When the electric generator gives off a high frequency signal, the transducers causes the tank bottom to vibrate, setting off expansion and compression waves in the liquid in the tank. During the expansion phase, millions of bubbles are produced in the liquid.

These bubbles grow in size, but when they achieve a specific size, they can no longer hold their shape. At this point the bubble implodes. The microscopic implosion releases a high-energy blast that removes contaminants from a surface, without damaging the surface itself.

British Dental Report

The Guardian report found that more than ten percent of the dentists surveyed in the CQC inspections did not employ the proper precautions. At the Bath branch office of ADP Dental Company, workers told inspectors that a broken ultrasonic cleaning unit meant that they “could not clean the equipment quickly enough” and that they occasionally “did not bother” to wash their hands.

At another dental office in North London, which the report described as “cluttered and dirty”, the staff could not demonstrate to inspectors that they could tell the difference between re-usable equipment (tools that must be cleaned after each use) and single-use equipment (tools that must be disposed of after one use). The staff could also not discern whether surgical instruments stored in drawers had been cleaned prior to use.

Risks of Infection

In most dental offices, ultrasonic cleaning is a routine part of the instrument cleaning and sterilization process. Dentists often use machines such as this ultrasonic washer to remove biological tissues and other contaminants from their instruments prior to sterilization. However, when such procedures are not used, “people may not be fully protected against the risk of cross infection” as stated in the CQC report. According to the report, more than 5,000 patients in the towns of Bristol and Bournemouth were offered blood tests for hepatitis and HIV after news leaked that an area dentist had not followed proper procedure in cleaning his instruments.

The inspectors released a statement detailing that the offending dental practices were undergoing “additional training and checking mechanisms” to keep them in compliance and that they are striving “to ensure we maintain the highest standards for all our patients”.

For more information on finding an ultrasonic cleaner that meets your needs, contact the experts at iultrasonic at 973-821-3406.


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