Newsletter Sign Up

Knowledge - Seek it, Learn it, Apply it!

The Common Misconception About the Everyday Disposable Prophy Angle

February 21, 2016
by Lory Laughter

I probably spend a bit too much time on social media, yet it provides some useful insight into the mindset of our profession. Some topics stimulate conversation, some are more for fun and share humor only we understand and others make the circuit every few months almost like a pattern. I find the latter the most interesting. It appears some questions are not adequately addressed or not answered in a way that satisfies our curious minds.

Some dental professionals want to read the research before making a decision on a topic and others wtry to work it out with common sense. The third group uses a combination of both which is more evidence based than either of the previous groups. Practitioners who can read and understand the research and utilize those facts in a common sense manner (practical evidence) tend to have the best solutions.

In dentistry we decrease the chance of creating or spreading infections by using sterile items. Instruments, hand pieces and ultrasonic tips are sterilized between patients by a process that kills microorganisms. If it is critical these items be sterile prior to introduction into the oral cavity, why is the same not true for single use items such as saliva ejectors, burs and prophy angles?

A study published in The Dental Advisor - March 2012 demonstrated unsterile pre-packaged burs showed bacterial colony growth when cultured on blood agar plates. In contrast, pre-sterilized burs showed no bacterial growth. During the study burs were exposed to a broth containing 5% sheep'ss blood for 30 seconds. Unsterile pre-backaged burs, pre-sterilized pacakged burs and previously used burs sterilized by autoclaving were tested. The autoclaved burs served as a control. The study concluded that contamination of pre-packaged burs is possible and infection control can be maintained by using pre-sterilized burs.

Disposable prophy angles come pre-packaged, but never pre-sterilized. The prophy angle and cup come into contact with oral tissues during the polishing procedure. This is also a time when gingiva may be infamed and more prone to bacterial attack. A sterile prophy angle makes sense and is also more in line with infection control protocols for other dental items.

Pac-Dent makes disposable, single use prophy angles that are sterilized after packaging. The angles are Gamma-irradiated and guaranteed sterile. Under independent laboratory testing, the surfaces of Pac-Dent's Sterile Mini Disposable Prophy Angles (DPAs) were shown to be completely free of pathogens. Given the potential for existing inflammation in gingival tissue and trauma that may occur during scaling and root planing, a sterile prophy angle could help promote a better healing environment.

The Sterile Mini 90 and Mini Ergo DPAs from Pac-Dent have several other advantages. Beyond sterilization, the angles are smooth running and quiet. They also have a small, yet powerful head that increases visibility andprovides for improved access. The gear and drive shaft technology from PacDent has been proven in performance. The angles are 100% latex-free.

http://www.products.pac-dent.com/

There is a future for Gamma-irradiated single-use products in dentistry. Look around your operatory work environment - you will notice other items that come into contact with the oral cavity but are not sterile. Saliva ejectors, fluoride trays, cotton rolls and cotton roll holders are all potentially contaminated items common during dental hygiene tratment. Imagine the peace of mind possible in telling your patients that EVERYTHING you put in their mouth is pathogen free.

Do you know your disposable prophy angle most likely is not sterile? Shouldn't it be sterile considering your hand piece and other hand instruments are sterilized prior to use? Something to consider on both the research and common sense fronts for infection control.