In dental care, having sterile instruments is a key part of the customer experience. An extremely high standard of hygiene is vital. Even a slight observed shortcoming in the standard of hygiene can cause damage to the patient relationship, and the patient’s trust can be hard to regain. In the worst case, hygiene problems can endanger the health of the patient and/or medical staff.
In a dental care unit, the standard of hygiene must be high enough that every patient can be treated safely, even if either the patient or the healthcare professional have a symptomless or known infectious disease. When it comes to effective hygiene practices, among the challenges of oral healthcare are the wide variation in the nature and difficulty of the care procedures, and the number of patients treated during the working day.
“As is stated often in the literature, the task of equipment maintenance is to provide clean, disinfected, sterile, functional and appropriate tools for patient care and examination. Washing and cleaning of equipment is the foundation of this maintenance work, as the cleanliness of the instruments is the essential foundation for the success of disinfection and sterilisation”, says Arja Seppälä, marketing manager of Kiilto’s professional cleanliness and hygiene business.
Pre-treatment prolongs the life of equipment and reduces the risk of infection
A fundamental part of hygiene practices is the choice of detergents used at different stages. Today, in addition to their effectiveness, the environmental impact of products is also becoming an important factor. The lifecycle approach that has come to the fore in many sectors is to reduce environmental impact by extending the life of products and tools.
“One factor that positively impacts the use of instruments and other equipment in dental care is expert pre-treatment. The purpose of pre-treatment is to clean the instruments and equipment to remove the risk of infection as soon as possible after use, to allow safe handling. When pre-treatment is carried out with environmentally friendly substances, the work phase does not place an unnecessary burden on the environment”, Seppälä explains.
The instruments used are pre-disinfected, for example in the dental unit, prior to maintenance of the equipment, or they are exported to the facility untreated in a closed container. The purpose of disinfecting instruments is to reduce the number of microbes to such a low level that they can no longer cause infection. The instruments are disinfected either through heat treatment in a special washing machine or chemically with broad-spectrum disinfectants. Most instruments can be washed directly, but instruments that are heat-sensitive or otherwise unsuited to direct treatment are disinfected to remove the risk of infection before being washed by hand.
Instruments that cannot be washed immediately after use can be coated with protective gel to inhibit bacterial growth and prevent dirt from drying onto the surface. The protective gel is sprayed onto the instrument immediately after use, and the instrument can be in the gel for three to five days. The gel does not need to be rinsed off before washing, and it is well suited for all materials.
Environmental impacts are measured in the process
In dental care, many sensitive materials are used, and their washing requires special properties from the substances. When the products that match the professional context have been chosen, it is worthwhile to assess the environmental impact in each phase of the process. According to Seppälä, reliable and responsible manufacturers today very openly provide information about the environmental aspects of each product. These aspects have been taken into account in many ways, for example in the raw materials, manufacturing process, logistics, packaging material, or in terms of the use and disposability of the product.
In Kiilto, a Finnish company that has turned 100 this year, attention has been paid to environmental aspects for a long time. In recent years, however, they have been brought even more closely to the centre of all things, and the company has made a pledge to examine environmental impacts in four different areas. The ambitious goals of the pledge are to make all the company’s operations carbon-neutral by 2028, to introduce packaging options to ensure a positive environmental impact, to provide the best circular economy solutions in the industry as a service, and to be the leading circular economy company in the industry.
Washing machines that disinfect can optimise end results
One of a local operator’s strengths is firm knowledge of the prevailing conditions.
“Kiilto’s ambition is to be a local operator internationally, that is, to know the prevailing conditions in all its operating environments, with the certainty that comes with being the market leader. A solid understanding of the various aspects affecting health and the environment is needed from professional cleanliness and hygiene experts in dental care”, Seppälä says.
In equipment servicing, for example, washing temperatures, detergent dispensing and the amount of water used affect both the quality of the result and the environmental impact. Effective tools for optimising these factors are washing machines that clean the equipment at a temperature of 45–55 °C and then disinfect with water or steam at 85 °C. The washing programme includes rinsing with cold water, washing with detergent and warm water, rinsing and disinfection, and possibly also drying. The programme lasts from 15 to 40 minutes. Different programmes can be selected on the washing machine, varying in their duration and temperature. Disinfectant washing machines are suitable for all heat- and moisture-resistant instruments. The instructions given by the equipment and instrument manufacturers must of course be followed.
Disinfectant washing machines are used with a detergent that is suitable for dental instruments and the water conditions of the area.
“Kiilto’s product range includes a detergent that has been produced to suit all Nordic water conditions and can be safely used for washing sensitive materials in dental care”, Seppälä explains.