Autoclaves are kinds of equipment that are used in dental practices to sterilize all of the instruments and all of the materials used in professional procedures. They must meet the bio safety standards established by the regulations in force, starting with the guidelines in Italian Legislative Decree number 81 of 2008 (Consolidation Act for Occupational Health and Safety). They define autoclaves as "pieces of equipment that allow items to be subjected to high-pressure steam” and state that they must meet the requirements of the UNI EN 285 standard, which also provides details of the tests that must be carried out to ensure that machines are operating properly.
When picking an autoclave, it is possible to chose between three different types: Class N, Class S and Class B.
Class N autoclaves are compact and they are for sterilizing simple materials. The letter "N" stands for "naked solid products". Therefore, these autoclaves cannot be used to sterilize textiles, porous loads, hollow items or even products in pouches, as the cycles do not have the right characteristics to pass specific physical tests. Another potential weakness of these machines is that the required steam penetration cannot be guaranteed. Among other things, it is dependent on the creation of a vacuum at the start, which is not obligatory in these machines. Class B autoclaves are compact but their performance levels are comparable to those of the largest machines in hospitals. The letter "B" stands for "big small sterilizers", because they are small machines that offer big performance. Any type of load can be sterilized in a Class B autoclave. This includes porous materials, products in pouches, textiles and hollow items such as wands, turbines and tips. The applicable standard for equipment of this kind is EN 13060, which is specifically dedicated to small steam sterilizers (i.e. machines with a sterilization chamber that is smaller than the sterilization unit). The standard distinguishes between sterilization cycles on the basis of the materials being sterilized (solid loads, type A solid loads with hollow sections and type B solid loads with hollow sections).
Finally, Type S covers all of the other types of autoclaves. Essentially, it is an intermediate class between Type N and Type B autoclaves and the characteristics are not defined by any standards. It simply depends how they are made. Only the manufacturers can provide details of their performance capabilities, which are established by specific tests.
Therefore, the most suitable machine for a dental practice is a Class B autoclave, because it offers greater flexibility and is suitable for a wide range of settings. Although they are small, Class B autoclaves can offer outstanding performance, unbeatable efficiency and the highest possible safety standards. Their noteworthy strengths include easy handling thanks to their ergonomic designs and energy savings due to their low power consumption. User-friendly Class B autoclaves are the epitome of hygiene and safety, as well as practicality and comfort.