Let’s go green!
The effective cleaning properties of enzymes
Laura Yates – Technical Manager at Dentisan
Dentistry is an increasingly “target-driven” profession and many practices (particularly those fulfilling an NHS contract) are under pressure to maintain a high throughput of patients. This has a knock-on effect which makes the efficiency of instrument reprocessing even more important, not only in terms of compliance, but also from a business point of view. The safety of staff and increasing awareness of the environmental impact of cleaning processes is also now putting cleaning materials into the spotlight.
If it isn’t clean it can’t be sterile!
If instruments are insufficiently cleaned they cannot be sterilised effectively, even after a cycle in an autoclave, so the choice of cleaning product is crucial. This is where enzymatic detergents come into their own, being increasingly popular due to their efficient and effective cleaning action in stark contrast to other, often harsher chemicals.
Kinder to your instruments and the environment
Historically, chemicals that have the ability to break down the type of contamination found on dental instruments, such as dried blood and saliva, have been formulated using harsher, less environmentally friendly constituents as a way of achieving effective cleaning. However, as advances in cleaning technology have emerged, users have started to question whether the possible detriment to both user and equipment, and the negative environmental impact makes them the most suitable cleaning substances in the long term.
The development of multiple enzymes (amongst other ingredients) in detergents has effectively reduced the need for more aggressive chemical ingredients in instrument reprocessing. This has numerous benefits, increasing user safety, reducing the environmental impact and providing a solution that has wider material compatibility – all of which is great news for dental practices.
The natural alternative
Enzymes are naturally occurring proteins and are responsible for many essential biochemical reactions in microorganisms, plants, animals and humans and as such are crucial to life processes, for example, they are present in the digestive juices.
Enzymes catalyse specific reactions, which means they speed up reactions, while at the same time remaining themselves unchanged. One such reaction results in the breakdown of the proteins in blood that can be left on dental instruments. The presence of enzymes enables cleaning to take place at lower temperatures, at neutral pH and reduces the need for aggressive chemical breakdown of the soil. This property makes enzyme cleaners ideal for use in both manual and ultrasonic cleaning processes.
Enzymes are selective in terms of the reactions they carry out and will only work on a material if it is present. This selectivity not only provides efficient and effective cleaning but has also enabled the formulation of cleaning solutions that have excellent material compatibility – a crucial benefit in dental surgeries where many different types of surfaces and materials are found. Enzymes are also fully biodegradable and their regular use enhances practices’ green credentials, by using the power of nature to create the effective cleaning agents required in a healthcare setting.
Enzyme types that might be found in dental instrument cleaning products include:
- Protease, which breaks down proteins
- Amylase, which breaks down carbohydrates and starch
- Lipase, which breaks down lipids (fats)
Let’s go green
So, as practices get busier again, we need efficiency and effectiveness from our decontamination processes, whilst keeping one eye on how we can contribute to a safer, more sustainable environment for all. The use of enzyme-based cleaning products in conjunction with pre-cleaning treatments (such as immediate reprocessing or the use of an instrument foam to prevent the contaminants from drying out), forms part of a collective movement that creates a highly effective instrument reprocessing regime.
See more about our enzymatic cleaning products: