Have you ever been prying about the dental sterilization method at your dentist’s office? After all, most of the mechanisms used during your research or practice get designed to persist for several years. Proper dental sterilization avails the health of others and the persistence of the dental instrument itself to work accurately and help sustain the highest safety standards. Every single part of dental equipment used during your appointment gets sanitized using a dental autoclave.

What is Dental Autoclave?

dental autoclave, also identified as a steam sterilizer, sanitizes dental equipment after every use. It uses high-pressure temperatures and steam to contend with wreck and bacteria. It satisfies the CDC requirements for proper sterilization and allows dentist offices to reuse numerous instruments and tools.

The supervision of clinical waste and dental procedures entails highly skillful dentists. Despite this, even the best doctor can’t manage the full extent of his capacities if the most appropriate tools don’t supply him. Whether you address this, efficient dental practice methodology has to leave back satisfied employees and patients. To do this, you will, of course, necessitate good dental tools, as well as the most reliable autoclaves for steam sterilization, so your staff can use sterile and appropriately stocked tools.

So what accurately is steam sterilization, and why do we highlight its importance so much? It is a highly competent and absolute method for disinfection as it can destroy any living organisms. It doesn’t imply what type of bacteria or spore on the facade of the instruments or what kind of pathogenic, non-pathogenic microorganisms were found. After the steam sterilization process, your tools will be free of all living microorganisms.

There must be a standardized method to sterilize your tools that can be repeated every day, with verified and documented results. There have been many modes of sterilization like dry heat and chemical steam, but none have proven as stable as dental autoclaves, also known as steam sterilizers.

Autoclaves are primarily pressuring chambers, utilizing high-pressure steam at temperatures over 100 degrees Celsius to eliminate all microorganisms on the loads you put inside them. Their effectiveness has also been proven outside of dental uses, as autoclaves are present in other areas of medicine, such as microbiology, prosthetics fabrication, and even tattoo and piercing shops!

How Does an Autoclave Work?

When the autoclave door is locked with a sealed antechamber, a vacuum pump eliminates all air present in the chamber and replenishes it with steam. Now, force is applied on steam to achieve desired sterilization for the selected time duration. Once the cycle is complete, the smoke is exhausted, and lab equipment is removed from the chamber carefully.

The many phases of a sterilization cycle are shown below:

  1. Purge Phase: Expel the air from the chamber during the first phase of the sterilization cycle, known as the Purge Phase. The vacuum system fitted in the autoclave machine is designed to substitute the air with steam in the sealed chamber.
  2. Exposure (Sterilization) Phase: Once the air gets removed, the sterilizer duct closes, and steam gets admitted in the chamber, which results in the accretion of pressure and temperature within the chamber at the aspired level. The cycle enters the exposure phase, and the lab equipment is held at the sterilization temperature for an urged time.
  3. Exhaust Phase: Pressure gets released from the chamber by an exhaust valve, and the interior gets revived to ambient pressure.

What Should a Quality Dental Autoclave Include?

An Autoclave is used for sanitation purposes; having the following features:

  • Quality sanitization inclinations
  • Large enough to purge daily-use instruments
  • Drying mechanism for additional sanitation
  • Temperature control for best results

As our treasured patients, we want you to know that we are here for you. If you have any feelers concerning the sterilization devices we use or the manners we take to assure your health, please ask us. We will narrate the method so you can have trust in our practice. We ensure that all of our dental instruments are:

  • Sterilized to CDC standards
  • Properly handled and packaged
  • Industry-grade quality instruments

We need our patients to have tranquillity when it befalls their dental practice. For more knowledge about our methods, please get in touch with our office for more details. We are happy to answer added questions and go over our in-house dental services.

We look forward to assisting you!

What are the stages of the dental steam sterilization process?

A dental autoclave’s function can usually be split into five steps:

  1. In the preceding phase of steam sterilization, the Dental Autoclave’s pump will evacuate all the air present in the sterilization chamber to create a vacuum. It is essential because otherwise, the air inside would serve as a barrier hindering the steam from reaching all tools in balanced proportions.
  2. After all the air has blown in the Dental Autoclave’s chamber, steam will start flowing inside. The force inside the chamber will be greater than that of the atmospheric one, increasing the water’s boiling point. The vapor inside then reaches hotter temperatures ranging from 121 to 134 degrees Celsius.
  3. When the temperature inside the Dental Autoclave’s chamber approaches its boiling point, all material inside is kept there for a doomed amount of time set by the manufacturer of the dental steam sterilizer. This is imperative when the machine can start killing off the germs with the help of the high-pressure steam that has reached a temperature over 100 degrees Celsius.
  4. After killing off all germs, the steam comes out of the chamber, and all tools inside are vacuum-dried.
  5. Finally, in the last phase of the dental steam sterilization cycle, the pressure inside the chamber is compressed to the original atmospheric level.

After this, the instruments can be filed and used again for clinical and surgical purposes!

So what kind of Autoclave should a dental practice use?

While dental autoclaves are the way to go, since the popularity of steam sterilizers is constantly on the rise, there is a vast array of products you can choose from. You may find different results depending on the sources you check, but there are usually three main classes of autoclaves you can choose from:

  • Class N Autoclaves(Most Compact Small Autoclaves):

Class N steam sterilizers are relatively small dental autoclaves that are ideal if you’re looking for the most space-saving solution, and you only need to sterilize specific materials. The “N” stands for “naked solid product,” so be leery, as these dental steam sterilizers cannot be used to handle fabrics such as textiles. These devices also don’t perpetually make usage of the vacuum defined earlier.

These are the most simplistic autoclaves, only eliminating a portion of the air by gravity so that the steam produced drives the air outward. For this speculation, they are not advised for objects with holes or cannulas and are only indicated for flat instruments such as scalpels. They do not admit sterilization of bagged instruments and are not recommended for a dental clinic.

  • Class B Autoclaves(known as “big, small, or medium” autoclaves):

These autoclaves expel the air inside the chamber through a vacuum pump, generating a negative pressure that forces steam entrance. They can sterilize pory instruments with blind holes and textile loads, so they are the autoclaves betokened for a dental clinic. The letter “B” stands for “big small,” signifying that they can render superior performance notwithstanding their smaller size. You can also plant much more types of dental instruments for sterilization.

  • Class S autoclaves(all other types, including the largest steam sterilizers):

Class S satisfies a much less defined class of autoclaves, where the details are primarily found in the technical explanations rendered by the manufacturer. This class removes the air inside the chamber using a wall of steam which is denser than air. Throughout the sterilization cycle, they perform this method three times, thus securing the extraction of all indoor air. They can sterilize porous bagged products, but not textile items and are consequently not recommended in dental clinics.

Final Considerations Before Buying Your Autoclave:

  • Before buying an autoclave, you must consider that you need a Class B Autoclave for a dental clinic.
  • If you have a small and medium-sized clinic, you can choose an economical autoclave of average capacity. It is always better to have two medium size autoclaves than a large one.
  • Suppose you have a large clinic in which you are going to use the Autoclave very intensively. In that case, you should go for a high-end autoclave that will provide you with superior reliability and technical service.

What is Autoclavable?

Devices must be compatible with the autoclave process. Autoclavable items must be compatible with high heat and moisture conditions and should be processed per the manufacturer’s written instructions for use. Medical devices that have contact with sterile body tissues or fluids are considered critical items. These items may include surgical instruments, implanted medical devices, and surgical drapes and linens. These items should be sterile when used because any microbial contamination could result in infection transmission. Steam is often the sterilant of choice for sterilizing heat and moisture stable items because it is reliable, consistent, and lethal to microorganisms while being safe for the Autoclave staff.

What are some uses of autoclaves for dentists? 

In the typical dental practice, autoclaves primarily sterilize small packets of tools or handpieces. However, a bigger autoclave with more space will most likely be used in more extensive dental procedures that perform dental surgery.

Given a standard dental practice, uses of autoclaves will most likely include the following:

  • Sterilization of dental handpieces
  • Sterilization of packets of tools
  • Sterilization of surgical tools

Remember, it’s crucial to make sure a tool or item is autoclavable before you put it inside of an autoclave. Here are autoclavable materials:

  • Polypropylene
  • Glassware
  • Stainless steel
  • Surgical instruments
  • Gloves
  • Media solutions

On the other hand, here are some materials that are not autoclavable:

  • Non-stainless steel
  • Sulfates
  • Polyurethane
  • Polystyrene
  • Chorine or bleach
  • Paraffin-embedded tissue
  • Low density and high-density polyethylene
  • Chlorides
  • The liquid in a sealed container
  • Corrosive, reactive, flammable, or toxic materials
  • Any material that touches the interior surfaces of the Autoclave

Autoclave Do’s and Dont’s:

It’s essential to follow all safety procedures for autoclave use in the lab, including a proper PPE Kit.


  • Use ORANGE autoclavable biohazard bags to autoclave waste.
  • Add ~250mL water to the bag before loosely closing the bag.
  • Autoclave bag in a stainless steel or autoclave safe polypropylene secondary container.
  • Put the autoclaved bag in the regulated medical waste box when the bag has cooled.
  • Clean up after yourself.
  • Remove your waste from Autoclave promptly so others may use it.


  • Use RED biohazard bags for autoclave waste.
  • Leave your bags in the Autoclave after the run is done.
  • Leave full autoclave bags on the floor.
  • Expect the janitorial staff to handle autoclave bags that are outside of the designated waste bins. They are not trained to handle biowaste.
  • Let autoclave bags accumulate in your lab, in the Autoclave, or autoclave room.
  • Use autoclave bags for anything other than biohazardous waste collection.

Compatible and Incompatible Materials

The following are materials that may and may not be treated using an autoclave.

Compatible Materials:

  • Tissue Culture Flasks
  • Surgical Instruments
  • Glassware
  • Pipette tips
  • Media Solutions
  • Animal food and bedding
  • Waste
  • Polypropylene (Secondary containers)
  • Stainless steel
  • Gloves

Incompatible Materials:

  • Acids, bases, and organic solvent
  • Chlorides, sulfates
  • Seawater
  • Chlorine, hypochlorite, bleach
  • Non-stainless steel
  • Polystyrene(PS)
  • Polyethylene(PE)
  • Low density (LDPE) and High-density polyethylene(HDPE)
  • Polyurethane

NEVER Autoclave:

  • Flammable, reactive, corrosive, toxic, or radioactive materials
  • Household bleach
  • Any liquid in a sealed container.
  • Any material contained in such a manner that it touches the interior surfaces of the Autoclave.
  • Paraffin-embedded tissue. The melted paraffin can cause significant damage to the Autoclave.

Advantages/ Disadvantages of an Autoclave:


  1. Economical or cheap
  2. Short procedure time
  3. Provides good penetration on all surfaces
  4. No additional chemicals or disposables required


  1. Moisture retention
  2. Carbon steel can get damaged due to moisture exposure
  3. Only stainless steel instruments and plastics that can bear the heat be sterilized

What is Autoclave’s Temperature Range?

Commonly recommended temperatures for steam sterilization are 250° F (121° C), 270°F (132°C) or 275°F (135° C). The sterilized items must be exposed to these temperatures to kill any microorganisms for the minimum time recommended by the manufacturer of the processed device.

What is the Autoclave Cycle Time Frame?

The exposure time is necessary to sterilize the device and does not include the entire cycle time. There is a time/temperature relationship for proper steam sterilization, which has been developed by scientific testing and is used in all sterilization methods to create what is known as the total exposure phase. Exposure periods for steam sterilization vary with the size, shape, weight, density, and material composition of the sterilized device, among other factors.

How big is an Autoclave?

The size of the sterilizer will vary based on the capacity needed for the area where the Autoclave will be used. For example, the Autoclave may sit on the countertop where the equipment only needs to sterilize small packs of instruments in a dental office. An immediate-use sterilizer is typically required near an operating room and may only need to process 1-3 trays of devices at a time. However, most healthcare facilities have large autoclave machines in their Sterile Processing Department(SPD), which can process 15-20 trays of instruments per cycle or even up to 625 lbs of instruments per cycle depending on size. Industrial-sized autoclaves for manufacturing processes can be very large, some comparable to the size of a semi-truck or airplane.

How much does an Autoclave cost?

The costs of an autoclave can vary significantly because of the various uses and applications of this technology. Industrial and pharmaceutical autoclaves are customized and manufactured for a specific service, and therefore, costs are likely to differ compared to autoclaves you find in a hospital or dental office.

In healthcare applications, the cost of an autoclave can range by capacity and installation method. Beyond the initial cost of the Autoclave, one should examine the maintenance and cost of sterility assurance and monitoring products. The prices per cycle, utility consumption, and maintenance costs could vary depending on the autoclave manufacturer. One should evaluate them to compare the total cost of ownership over time.

Industrial Autoclaves VS. Medical Autoclaves:

Industrial autoclaves are used in manufacturing situations to process parts and materials using heated steam and pressure; for example, in the manufacturing of pressure-treated woods and specialized rubbers used in car tires. We can also use it in the scientific research and pharmaceutical industries – exceeding sterilizing equipment used in laboratory research. Most autoclaves come equipped with a liquid cycle to sterilize liquids used in laboratory environments.



Medical steam sterilizers are used in healthcare environments to sterilize heat and moisture-stable items such as surgical instruments, implanted medical devices, and surgical drapes and linens. The series used in medical steam sterilizers are developed and validated according to recognized industry standards.