Dental students design metal saliva ejectors
SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica: Four dental students at the University of Costa Rica (UCR) have recently found a way to counter the environmental impact of disposable plastic saliva ejectors. They have developed a metallic, reusable saliva ejector that can be sterilized in an autoclave. According to the students, the newly developed dental instrument is not only environmentally friendly but also a cost-effective solution for dental practices.
According to an article published on the UCR website, the UCR Faculty of Dentistry disposes of 166 ejectors a day, 3,317 a month and approximately 40,000 a year. If each of Costa Rica’s 232 dental offices saw 12 patients a day, this would result in 801,792 ejectors being disposed of each year and would cost an estimated ₡10,423 ($18,248) yearly.
“Plastic saliva ejectors are one of the most used instruments by dentists. To counter their environmental impact, we proposed a stainless-steel, autoclavable, surgical grade ejector designed to meet all the standards so that professionals replace traditional plastic ejectors,” said Yulieth Segura Castillo, one of the dental students.
The students began their research and development process by meticulously testing several prototypes made of various metals. During the testing phase, some of the materials could not withstand the heat and were deformed or they malfunctioned during use. After finding a suitable material, the researchers teamed up with a metallurgist to develop the final prototype of the product that successfully passed all sterility and functionality tests.
The metal ejector boasts a removable nozzle that improves the autoclaving process. A plastic ejector costs an estimated ₡13.00 ($0.022). The metal ejector will cost ₡11,000 ($19,258). Since dentists have to follow guidelines for infection prevention and control, the plastic ejectors currently being used in the dental offices have to be discarded after only one use. Taking the durability of metal ejectors into account, the researchers believe that investing in metallic saliva ejectors would save on not only the time and money needed to purchase plastic ejectors but also the medical waste disposal costs.