The Vacuum Information about Dental Autoclave

Dental autoclaves are truly the backbone of any dental office, and you cannot work safely without them. All of your handheld tools need to be sterilized before they can be used, and you can end up spending way too much on these devices if you invest in a lower-tier product that constantly needs to be replaced.

Earlier dental dry vac systems were powered by regenerative blower style motors that generated “jet engine” noise levels. The newer dry vacuum systems are powered by direct drive electric motors and carbon fiber vanes. They exhibit noise levels that are similar to that of a high speed dental handpiece without the high pitch. These dramatic improvements to the decibel output permit these systems to be installed in small closets and even under lab counters, without disturbing the patients, dentist or dental staff.

Most industrial technologies have improved significantly over the past few decades; dry vacuum systems are not only much quieter, but also much smaller. The dental dry vac pumps currently available are typically similar in footprint or smaller than the wet vac that they replace. Dry vacs, unlike wet vacs, require an air/water separator to hold the collected debris. A 6-12 gallon tank can be attached to the motor or installed at any location in the plumbing system. This tank drains any material it collects automatically.

Prevacuum autoclaves (also called Class B or Type B sterilizers) use a variety of technologies to remove air from the chamber before the steam enters, thus creating a vacuum. Most use a pulse vacuum to ensure elimination of air from the chamber. This is generally a more efficient means of pressurizing the chamber; therefore, the operator may notice some minor time saving in the start-up of the prevacuum sterilizers. Most prevacuum sterilizers use a temperature of 132°C-135°C for 3-10 minutes to achieve sterilization. This higher temperature may be unacceptable for some items, such as Teflon-coated instruments. Total time for pressurization, sterilization, venting and drying is generally considerably shorter than that for gravity sterilizers – about 45 minutes.

Wet vacs eliminate debris collected from patients’ mouths’ through the water exiting the vacuum pump. All Canadian municipalities legally mandate that a backflow preventer be installed on the waterline to prevent reverse flow and bacterial contamination of the fresh water supply. The cost of a backflow preventer is approximately $1000 plus annual maintenance costs. Dry vacs do not have any water flow, and thus no concerns for backflow or bacterial contamination.