How to Select Dental Ultrasonic Cleaners

Dental Instrument Ultrasonic Cleaning

Ultrasonic cleaning is among recommendations in the CDC’s Summary of Infection Prevention Practices in Dental Settings to remove contaminants from reusable dental instruments.   Cleaning before sterilization avoids heat “baking on” blood, tissue and other organic residues that cause infection problems.  As described in this post dental instrument ultrasonic cleaning systems are also ideal for cleaning molds, implant hybrid prosthesis, and removing plaster and cement from bridgework.  

Why You Need an Ultrasonic Dental Instrument Cleaner

Ultrasonic energy creates billions of minute vacuum bubbles in an ultrasonic cleaning bath that implode with tremendous force when they contact dental instruments. 

The process, called cavitation, reaches into tiny cracks and crevices, quickly and safely blasting loose and carrying away contaminants on dental instrument surfaces.  It is a much faster and more efficient method than mechanical washers or manual scrubbing that requires dental technicians to handle sharp instruments. 

Only after a thorough ultrasonic cleaning should  dental instruments move to the second and third stage:  disinfecting or sterilization then packaging. That is because residues interfere with microbial inactivation and can compromise subsequent processes, according to the CDC.

In summary, a dental ultrasonic cleaner can be considered a “best practice” to remove these contaminants. 


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How to Operate an Ultrasonic Dental Cleaner

Bench or table-top dental ultrasonic cleaners are available in several sizes.  An example is the 1.5 gallon Elmasonic EP60H available from Tovatech.  It can be used to clean instruments such as picks, drills, mold spoons; prostheses such as dentures and crowns, and to remove cement and plaster. 

Suggested Procedures for Ultrasonic Dental Instrument Cleaning

UltraDose Germicidal
  • Until instruments are ready to be cleaned keep them immersed in either a germicidal or enzymatic presoak such as PreZyme. Do not let instruments dry out before ultrasonic cleaning.
  • Use an ultrasonic cleaning solution formulated for cleaning dental instruments. A suggestion is UltraDose™ Germicidal, an EPA registered product that both cleans and disinfects in the ultrasonic dental cleaner bath.  Diluted to 1 oz. per gallon of water it is an economical solution to cleaning reusable dental instruments.
  • Objects to be cleaned are placed in a mesh tray or basket that is suspended by its handles into the ultrasonic cleaning solution so that the instruments are fully immersed*.
  • Cleaning time (typically 7 to 10 minutes depending on the size of the load) and the temperature are set using the intuitive control panel and the unit turned on.  Note that solution temperatures should be kept below 42°C (107⁰F). Otherwise particles could “bake” on the instruments and cannot be removed by sterilization.  
  • When the ultrasonic cleaning cycle is completed, rinse the instruments in water to remove solution residue and then move to the disinfecting or sterilizing steps to complete the process.  As an interim step Barrier Milk can be used to lubricate hinges and prevent corrosion.

The ultrasonic dental cleaner solution should be changed at least once a day and the tank thoroughly cleaned and allowed to dry before being refilled with fresh solution. 

Follow the Instructions provided by manufacturers of ultrasonic cleaning equipment and solutions.  A side-mounted knob on the EP60H is turned to drain used cleaning solution via a valve on the back of the unit.

Selecting an Ultrasonic Dental Instrument Cleaner for Your Practice

Several points must be considered when you select your dental ultrasonic cleaner.  Here we present a brief summary.

  • Cleaning Tank Capacity.  The internal dimensions of the tank are important, but more critical are the dimensions of the mesh basket that holds your instruments.  Basket dimensions are slightly smaller than tank dimensions. Keep in mind that to be effectively cleaned parts must be completely immersed*.
  • Ultrasonic Frequency. A frequency of 37 kHz or 37,000 cycles per second is ideal for most dental instrument cleaning requirements.  Multi-frequency units are used for cleaning tasks such as difficult-to-remove contaminants (lower frequencies) or cleaning equipment with highly polished or complex surfaces (higher frequencies).
  • Sweep provides a slight ± variation in ultrasonic frequency to promote more uniform distribution of cleaning energy.
  • Pulse provides a 20% increase in power to remove difficult-to-remove contaminants.
  • Temperature Controls.  As noted above a high solution temperature can cause contaminants to bake on surfaces.  The process of ultrasonic cavitation heats the solution. Long cleaning cycles may call for a cooling coil to control solution temperature. In other cases the ability to heat a solution may be helpful for other cleaning tasks.
  • A timer lets you set cleaning cycle duration and attend to other matters.

Further useful functions

  1. A degas mode removes air from fresh cleaning solutions.  Air inhibits ultrasonic cavitation. 
  2. A lid helps mute the sound of cleaning action and reduces solution evaporation.  Reversible lids serve as a drip tray when baskets are removed and contents inspected.
  3. Tank Drains are desirable on larger units when it’s time to replace cleaning solutions.

Other Dental Ultrasonic Cleaner Models

The Elmasonic EP60H mentioned above is offered in 9 tank sizes from .25 to 7.5 gallons is one of several options available for dental instrument cleaning. 

Here are some others:

The Elmasonic S Series

  • 14 tank sizes from .25 to 24 gallons
  • LED display shows set and actual time and temperature
  • User-activated degas mode to quickly degas fresh solutions
  • User-activated pulse mode to remove strongly adhering contaminants

The Elmasonic P Series

Offers total control over the ultrasonic process

  • Six tank sizes from 0.75 gal to 7.5 gal
  • Variable ultrasonic power
  • 4 Modes for cleaning, mixing, degassing
  • Dual frequency: 37 kHz and 80 kHz
  • Timer and heater up to 80° C

The Ultimate Option – the Elmasonic Denta pro

This is a programmed ultrasonic cleaning  unit to automatically manage common cleaning challenges in dental clinics thanks to its preset programs that guarantee a standardized cleaning process for each cleaning cycle.

With the Elma Denta Pro Ultrasonic Cleaner it is no longer necessary to manually set parameters such as cleaning time, temperature, Sweep and Degas.  Simply select the required cleaning program and press the “Start“ key to initiate  the cleaning task.

Cleaning options include

  • dentures
  • drills
  • molds
  • plaster removal
  • cement removal
  • and for enzymatic and acid cleaning

In Conclusion:

Dental offices and clinics that apply ultrasonic energy to clean dental instruments should see increased productivity and cleaning effectiveness while reducing staff exposure to dangerous contaminants and risk of injury due to sharp edges.

Please contact our scientists for further details and for suggestions on ultrasonic systems best suited to clean your dental instruments.

*Chromium-plated instruments should not be cleaned ultrasonically.

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About Rachel Kohn

So how did an MIT Ph.D. end up selling refrigerators? When I figured out that a lot more scientists buy lab refrigerators than innovative leading-edge instruments. I hope that my many years of lab experience will help you find the right equipment for your work. Before co-founding Tovatech I worked in business development and project management at Smiths Detection, Photon-X, Cardinal Health, and Hoechst Celanese. And before that I spent 12 years as an R&D chemist at Hoechst Celanese and Aventis working on advanced drug delivery systems, polymer films and membranes, optical disks, and polysaccharides. Some day, eventually, I’ll make enough money to develop an innovative technology that will change the world. Read More