Decontamination – a safer future

decontaminationKate Scheer says that investing in your practice’s decontamination facilities is imperative for the effective and profitable functioning of your business.

At a time of economic instability and political turmoil within dentistry, purchasing decisions are made with a certain degree of reticence. It is no secret that dentists all over the country are being inspected for correct procedures and with a backdrop of media hype and inflammatory criticism, making the right decisions when investing in your practice’s decontamination facilities is imperative for the effective and profitable functioning of your business.

Busy dental practices are increasingly facing the serious challenge of maintaining productivity whilst ensuring the safety of patients and the team. These seem like incompatible goals, so the top priority when purchasing decontamination equipment is to ensure that you are enhancing the safety of your team and your patients, whilst ensuring fast efficient hygiene processes are put in place and adhered to. This is possible due to a plethora of high quality processing equipment now available at affordable prices. Advances in dental processing equipment empower practices to develop safe processes realising efficiencies, whilst remaining economical. It is absolutely critical that all members of the practice team understand the value and importance of effective infection control.


So, what is available and how can you protect yourself, your team and patients from the risk of cross contamination, whilst prolonging the useful life of your instrumentation? There are a number of issues facing you, especially where decontamination is concerned. It is important that the dental team follow a strict cross-infection regime in accordance with local and national guidelines and ‘best practice’. For some time now practices have had strict hygiene regimes to safeguard the team, patients and your instruments and it is worth regularly reviewing the most effective methods of improving these to meet current guidance and improve the workflow. The use of thermo-washer disinfector dryers, such as the Thermoklenz from W&H, is considered to be ‘best practice’ for a number of reasons. A risk assessment will show that a member of the dental team manually cleaning soiled and contaminated medical instruments with sharp protrusions increases the risk of sharps injuries. In addition, a washer disinfector ensures a reproducible, validatable, medically effective washing process, that will ensure you are doing the best you possibly can to reduce the risk of cross infection amongst your patients and your team.

Accredited thermo washer disinfectors are sophisticated medical devices manufactured for purpose; thorough cleaning is achieved by very high water flow rates at high pressure, these machines use formulated and validated solutions for the particular machine cycles, developed to take into account cleaning efficacy, balanced with the necessity to minimise damage to instruments. If you are looking to purchase a thermo washer disinfector, be aware of the medical standards and guidance demanded as the machine has to reliably and reproducibly process contaminated items in a medical environment. The cycle must be monitored at all stages and a printed or data record stored.

For those looking to prolong the working life of their handpieces, the ideal solution is to invest in a specialist handpiece maintenance system, of which there are a number on the market including the W&H Assistina 3X3. These units are designed to effectively clean and lubricate your handpieces, prior to sterilisation, without compromising their efficacy, assisting in maintaining your handpieces for optimal working and increasing their working life. The Assistina 3X3 offers a real alternative to putting handpieces in a thermo washer disinfector prior to sterilisation.


A good reliable steriliser is essential to the running of any dental practice. The W&H Lisa offers an efficient fast cycle from 14 minutes and a B cycle in just over 20 minutes. When choosing a steriliser, you need to be looking at speed, load size and reliability. Although a non-vacuum process may appear to be acceptable, instruments sterilised in this way cannot be pre-wrapped, and to ensure effective sterilisation of handpieces and other lumened instruments such as those containing tubes, threads or hinges, a vacuum B process is recommended. With a handpiece, the steam must penetrate internally including the small bore internal tubes such as spray water, spray air, drive, exhaust air and gear mechanisms – and this cannot be achieved if there is air remaining, which acts as an insulator. The instrument has to be fully purged by the vacuum air removal process, leaving the way clear to facilitate sterilisation. Sterilisers that offer an integrated solution for traceability of the cleaning process make it very easy to be HTM 01-05 compliant.

Following a vacuum B process, pouched sterilised loads can be stored for up to a year according to current HTM 01-05 guidance.


So talk to manufacturers such as W&H for sound advice on making the right choice. Companies such as W&H offer high quality products and backup, with UK based support services who will support their customers today and in the future. Not only should your chosen supplier give assistance in selecting the right products to suit your individual needs, but also the best method of funding your purchase, including future maintenance costs, so it is worth asking about finance, including rental, as this may prove beneficial both from a tax and cash flow perspective. If your decontamination facilities do not meet current guidelines, then contact your W&H representative for advice on what is suitable for your requirements.

You should be aware of essential service and validation needs and ensure that your supplier provides these. Look at the cost of consumables, which should be readily available from the supplier or distributor, and do not be tempted to use non-recommended detergent or accessories as they may not be validated to be effective in a dental environment. It is worth taking advice from your instrument and handpiece suppliers to ascertain which machines are approved for use with their products, as some chemicals may be harsher and more damaging than others and if your instrumentation is not maintained correctly it may negate your warranty.

When investing in your decontamination facilities, it may be more cost effective to source complete solutions from one provider, especially when looking long-term at continued service and validation requirements.

For more information on W&H products and services, and regarding the issues of decontamination within your practice, contact W&H by visiting or call 01727 874990. Your responsibility is for the duty of care and safety of your team and patients, so don’t let them take risks; invest for a safer, more efficient future.

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