What Are You Looking For In An Autoclave For Your Dental Practice?

Knowledge is power. When it comes to operating a dental practice, the more information you have, the better decisions you make. In order to sterilize dental instruments, you have to buy the right machine or machines. Steam sterilizers or autoclaves are essential to the sterilization process but they aren’t cheap – nothing in dentistry is. I want to help you make better decisions – so here’s some information!

The size of your practice and how you process instruments plays key roles in making the right purchasing decisions when it comes to autoclaves. You can check out my blog talking about the different types of autoclaves here. https://desergo.com/blog/2020-11/what-autoclave-is-right-for-your-dental-practice/ So, rather than discuss the different types of autoclaves, I thought it would be a good idea to answer some of the most common questions I get asked when docs are considering a new autoclave.

Size matters. 

What type of load will you run? Autoclaves come in different sizes. You are going to need an autoclave that will support your busy practice. Will you be utilizing cassettes? How many operatories? How many patients do you plan to treat in an hour? Remember, the demand for instruments must be less than the capability of the slowest process – a bottleneck. Your autoclave is the only rate limiting step in the sterilization process – meaning it is slower than any other step in the sterilization process. If your current autoclave cannot keep up with the demands of treating patients, it’s time for an upgrade. You’ll need an autoclave that is designed to work ahead of you.

HINT: I am the biggest fan of getting things done effectively in the least amount of steps -efficiently. Utilizing cassettes is considered the most efficient way to process dental instruments. 

Style Points.

Yes, the way an autoclave is designed can play a huge role in day to day use. For instance, if you consider a top loading autoclave – meaning one that features the water reservoir on the top of the unit, make sure it is accessible to those who have to fill it. No one should have to get a step stool or pull it out of a small space to add water. Is it a manual or automatic? Manual autoclaves require a bit more man power. When the unit is full and ready to run, someone must watch as the chamber fills up with water. Once the water reaches the suggested water level, the door is closed and the operator must switch the control to sterilize. When the cycle is complete, the operator turns the knob to drain and air dry. Automatic autoclaves run on their own. When the chamber is full of instruments and the door is closed, the operator selects the way the instruments are packaged (wrapped, unwrapped, unwrapped delicate and/or handpieces) and presses start! I choose option B!

Units with the ability to connect directly to a refill source are really nice too. I like the Tuttenauer T-Edge model for its integrated automatic water filling and drain connection!

BONUS: Tuttenauer T-Edge autoclave is also wi-fi enabled for remote monitoring via smartphone or tablet app.

Maintenance

My heart is in the right place when I tell you that the thing has got to be easy to use and maintain. The best way to ensure the longest life out of your autoclave and prevent failed cycles is to provide a standardized maintenance protocol. These checklists will include daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and semi annual maintenance. Some autoclave types from various manufacturers indicate daily draining and cleaning the seal. Carefully read the instruction manual before creating your maintenance checklist. I encourage all dentists to perform these tasks to get familiar with the process and all that is involved.

It Takes Two To Make A Thing Go Right

No matter what, you need to have two autoclaves. Why, you ask? Well, because you are putting your practice at risk should one fail. If one should go down, you’re dead in the water.

A loaded question appeared on Dentaltown back in June. Valerie writes, “How many sterilizers per clinician works best assuming each provider is fully booked?” I replied with a loaded response.

  1. Are you utilizing cassettes?
  2. What type of autoclave are you considering?
  3. How many operators?
  4. What does your sterilization process look like?

We have fallen in love with the Tuttenauer T-edge 10. This large capacity autoclave can process (2) large 14-instruments cassettes and (2) 9 instrument hygiene cassettes and (2)5-7 instruments in one cycle; or (4) 9-instrument and (4) 5-7 instruments in one cycle. We recommend two large capacity autoclaves to accommodate up to 8 operatories.

Sterilization is just one system in managing a dental practice. Your autoclave is one process in the sterilization system. The processes must be simple, consistent, and efficient. That’s how you get the most bang out of a buck.

I hope you find this blog helpful in your quest to determine the right autoclave for your dental practice.


Author Angie Bachman