Sterilisation In Dentistry – Why Is It Important?

sterilisation in dentistry critical dental australia

It’s true to say that sterilisation in dentistry plays a vital role in any dental clinic. Not only does it protect your investment in high-quality dentist tools, but more importantly, it plays a pivotal role in the health and safety of patients and staff under your care.

Whether you’re a dentist, dental hygienist, or a member of the support staff, efficient dental sterilisation cannot be underestimated. As such, an autoclave is an essential piece of equipment in the fight against the spread of biological infections.


How does an autoclave work?

An autoclave is a chamber that sterilises dental instruments by heating them to a temperature above the boiling point. A good autoclave is able to process numerous instruments in one cycle to meet the ongoing demands of a busy dental practice. By properly sterilising all of your tools and equipment, they should then be safe to use on the next patient.

When dentist tools and other supplies are placed inside an autoclave they’re exposed to high-temperature steam (usually around 132˚C or 270˚F) for about 20 minutes.  However, this time may vary according to the amount and the size of the instruments being sterilised.

Steam sterilisers or autoclaves are often likened to giant pressure cookers and not without good reason. They work speedily and effectively because of the high temperature involved. This coupled with its cylindrical shape, enables it to retain the heat for longer. In addition to decontamination, an autoclave also does a great job of penetrating and thoroughly cleaning every instrument, tool or equipment, leaving it spotless.

Finally – and just like a pressure cooker – an outside lock and safety valve is also present for safety reasons, preventing the autoclave’s pressure from rising too high.


Why is steam used in dental sterilisation?

To be able to kill a cell using heat, its temperature has to be raised to a level where the proteins contained in the cell wall break down and coagulate. Steam works extremely well to transfer heat and is, therefore, the ideal solution for destroying microbes.

Let’s do some math…

80kcal of energy is necessary to bring one litre of water to 100˚C or boiling point. Yet, converting that same litre of water to steam requires 540kcal. This indicates that steam at 100˚C contains around seven times more energy than water at 100˚C.


So what does this mean with regards to sterilisation in dentistry?

dentist tools sterilisation in dentistry critical dental australia

The reason steam is such an effective sterilising agent and adept at killing microbes is because of its increased energy. When steam hits a cooler object, (in this case a used dental instrument or tool) it turns back into water. As the temperature increases, it starts to transform back into steam. As it does so, all the energy that was initially used to create it is now utilised to attack any cell matter or microbes left on that instrument.

This is basically how steam is used to achieve sterility in the sterilisation process.


What is the aim of dental sterilisation?

The aim of sterilisation in dentistry is to avoid infection by killing organisms and spores present on objects. Dental instruments which come into contact with blood and tools such as pliers, forceps, scissors, files etc. must always be sterilised before they are used again on the next patient. The simplest and most effective way of doing this is with an autoclave in your dental clinic.

Now we know the importance of an autoclave and sterilisation in dentistry, how do you choose the right autoclave for your dental clinic?

Let’s look at 5 important questions and considerations you should make before parting with your hard-earned cash, together with various reasons for buying an autoclave. Hopefully, the combination of questions and responses will help you make a better informed decision.

So without further ado, let’s dive in…


Does the autoclave manufacturer have a good reputation with many years of experience and success in this field of dental sterilisation? 

The brand of autoclave you’re considering should have a good name and reputation to help you meet the strict standards required for sterilisation in a dental practice.


Will the supplier provide you with all of the options for purchasing an autoclave or will he push you in the direction of the one he wants you to buy?

At Critical Dental we have years of experience and will always recommend unbiased options specifically aimed towards the needs of your clinic.


What is the volume of instruments that need to be sterilised?

The volume of items to be sterilised will usually dictate the size of the autoclave necessary. We can recommend the ideal autoclave to suit your needs, depending on the size of its chamber.


Which autoclave delivers the best reliability for your investment?

Points to consider are the length of the warranty, how the warranty works, and is there a rep readily available if you have any questions regarding your purchase.


Is the autoclave you’re considering, easy to operate?

Can the autoclave be automatically set so that you can get on with other jobs in your busy clinic, returning to find your instruments sterile, dry, and ready to use? Or do you need to constantly monitor the unit?


As you can see, there are many angles and questions to consider. Buying your first autoclave or replacing an existing one requires research, forethought, and planning.

Critical Dental is a family business formed some 20 years ago and between us, we have more than 50 years of experience in the dental field. On our website, you’ll find some of the best dental products Australia has to offer, ranging from surgical instruments to handpieces, oral care, sterilisation products and so much more.


If you need product advice or further information, then don’t hesitate to contact the team at (02) 8883 0674.

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