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A comparison of decontamination methods used for dental burs

by C. L. Whitworth, M. V. Martin, M. Gallagher and H. V. Worthington Br Dent J 2004; 197: 635-640


This study investigated the bacterial and fungal contamination of used dental burs. A novel assay system for comparison of efficacy of pre-sterilization cleaning techniques for dental burs was used to evaluate manual scrubbing, enzymic agents and washer-disinfectors.


Thirty dental burs contaminated during cavity preparation were analysed for micro biological total viable counts and species of bacteria and fungi present. To simulate clinically contaminated burs, a culture of Streptococcus sanguis NCTC 7863 was used to inoculate unused dental burs, alone and combined with blood, saliva or a mixture of blood and saliva. Contaminated burs were subjected to six pre-sterilisation cleaning techniques and the log reduction in contamination achieved by each method was assessed.


The microbial count from used dental burs ranged from 0 to 6.92x104 CFU ml-1. Many potentially pathogenic species were identified. The decontamination assay demonstrated that autoclaving alone was not sufficient to sterilize dental burs. Manual scrubbing in air was less efficacious than manual scrubbing under water (p<0.001). The most effective method of pre-sterilization cleaning for dental burs was a washer-disinfector.

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