Your dental practice is a business. In business, reputation is everything. And reputation comes from keeping all your moving parts in good working order.
So when your equipment isn't working properly, it costs you money. This creates practice-wide inefficiencies that trickle down to how your patients view your treatment approach in the long run.
Plus, this blind spot might put them in harm’s way. To have a top-notch practice, you need a top-notch evacuation system.
Your evacuation system is one of the most crucial pieces of dental equipment in your practice. It only makes sense to give it the necessary TLC to ensure it performs at its best.
However, some confusion seems to exist, as highlighted in a recent Dental Economics piece, regarding whether it’s best to clean or to disinfect your dental evacuation system’s suction lines.
In this article, we aim to provide you with an answer to this question.
Both Cleaning and Disinfection Are Necessary
While suction lines need to be cleaned frequently, there’s some controversy and confusion about the products you’re supposed to use.
Specifically, are you supposed to clean or disinfect your suction lines?
It’s an important question because using incompatible products that don’t jive with your evacuation system could cause a reaction with the solids collector’s contents. So, applying the proper methods is absolutely crucial.
That said, disinfecting and cleaning are equally necessary, just at different times.
The Backflow Problem
Low-volume suction lines used for the saliva ejector can cause backflow that has a slight potential to cause cross-contamination.
Most typically, the saliva injector’s home is in hygiene treatment rooms. There, patients are told by their hygienists to tightly close their lips around the tip of the ejector. This encourages the efficient removal of fluids.
The most recent study about saliva ejectors and backflow goes back to 2006 when the CDC suggested that patients shouldn’t be told to close their lips around the injector.
Also, to deal with contamination, it was said that daily disinfection was necessary for suction lines.
When to Clean Suction Lines
Using an evacuation system cleaner, you must clean suction lines in the hygiene treatment room every day. Doing so removes debris and blood. Additionally, you’ll need to run a system-compatible disinfectant through any tubing.
Make sure to disinfect low-volume suction lines before you see every patient. The best practice is to use a small amount of disinfectant/waterline cleaner on these occasions because they are compatible with the evacuation system.
We’ll also point out that you don’t need to disinfect high-volume suction lines between patients since backflow doesn’t affect this area. Still, you need to maintain daily cleanings because debris can clog the lines after accumulating. And remember to apply shock treatments every so often.
Products to Consider
This section will provide a list of products that you can use to clean or disinfect your suction lines.
Note: While these will be excellent products (and tested for compatibility), still inquire about the manufacturer’s suggestions to learn what disinfectants are compatible with your evacuation system.
The evacuation system cleaners below possess enzymes that get rid of debris from the tubing:
Beyond these options, multiple available shock treatments eliminate deposit collections that daily cleanings don’t take care of. Related products to consider are:
Avoid using chlorine-based products in suction lines. Chlorine causes corrosion of metal components. Moreover, research shows that oxidizers lead to the amalgam particles releasing mercury, contaminating the water.
Don’t Forget Your Suction Traps!
Ensure that you’re switching disposable suction traps weekly (or even more frequently than that if the traps get clogged).
Don’t throw used suction traps into the trash because of the amalgam particles they contain. Instead, a licensed medical/hazardous waste remover should dispose of the traps. The same notion goes for amalgam capsules because they might contain mercury.
Make Evacuation System and Suction Cup Cleaning a Top Priority. Patient and Staff Safety Depends on It.
Your evacuation system is the most critical component of your dental practice. But it can also be the most dangerous when you don’t take care of it.
The above notion rings doubly true during a worldwide pandemic since evacuation systems are the main cause of cross infections between staff and patients. Without focusing on proper cleaning and disinfecting tactics, the chances for exposure to pathogenic micro-organisms increase exponentially.
So, proper suction pipe cleaning, disinfecting, and maintenance isn’t just about efficiency. It’s about safety too. And as a dental health practitioner, keeping everyone healthy and safe should be your top priority!