While the use of a Class B Steriliser is essential in achieving infection control objectives, sterilisation of critical and semi-critical items such as handpieces is not effective without proper instrument cleaning prior to sterilising. This includes thoroughly cleaning handpieces inside and out using an approved medical device detergent as specified by the handpiece manufacturer, in addition to effectively lubricating the internal gears. This process is necessary to remove gross debris and biofilm and also excess or contaminated lubricant, which can impede the sterilisation process and shorten the life of instruments. This is the advice from Christopher Jobson, who is a member of the Australian Standards Committee for the Processing of Medical and Surgical instruments (HE-023) and also W&H Territory Manager for Australia & New Zealand.

Mr Jobson said it was important that all dental practices had an effective reprocessing protocol (cleaning, disinfecting and sterilizing)that was simple, fast and most of all, reliable. He said automated handpiece maintenance units are favoured by the Australian Dental Association Infection Control Guidelines to ensure consistent and effective cleaning and lubrication of handpieces. “This is because hand cleaning and manual lubrication of dental instruments can easily lead to over-oiling which can compromise the penetration of steam into the handpiece during sterilisation and also affect the handpiece operation and longevity.” At present, only one device, the W&H Assistina 3×3, ensures an independently verified process for cleaning both outside and also the internal transmission and coolant air/water lines of a turbine or contra-angle handpiece with a slightly alkaline detergent, before purging and drying with air, then internally lubricating the handpiece.

The compact bench-top unit is capable of internally and externally cleaning and lubricating up to three handpieces in just 6 ½ minutes, making it ideal for all dental practices. Thermo washer disinfectors such as the popular Miele TWD are also very useful in cleaning and disinfecting handpieces in readiness for maintenance in an automated handpiece unit and steam sterilisation in a Class B steriliser. W&H manufactures a wide range of Assistina units to suit small and large practices including the well-known single handpiece Assistina 301 Plus unit with the smallest footprint on the bench, the Assistina 3×3 cleaning (with detergent) and lubricating unit and the recently released Assistina TWIN. Thanks to its unique oil nebulisation process which coats the internal gears with a thin film of specialised W&H F1 lubrication fluid, the Assistina TWIN cleans the coolant channels with detergent and lubricates the handpiece in the record time of just 10 seconds! While one handpiece is being processed, another can be loaded into the dual chamber for processing immediately after the first unit is finished for rapid throughput of multiple handpieces. All Assistina units are very economical to operate, with significant savings on lubrication oil costs compared with hand lubrication of instruments using a pressurised spray can. The recommended process of removing gross debris by hand or rinsing and placing in a thermo washer disinfector and then using an Assistina automated handpiece unit ensures handpieces are properly cleaned, disinfected and lubricated, ready for sterilisation every time.

Because of the high degree of automation of the process, the W&H Assistina saves on staff training and produces far more consistent results including effectively cleaning the handpiece internally and providing the optimum level of lubrication which is not possible by manual lubrication. Using the latest Lisa VA B Cycle steriliser with its load sensing technology, a typical 2 kg load of mixed instruments can then be sterilised in around 30 minutes, making the entire process secure and efficient.