A dental sterilizer is any piece of equipment that is used to destroy all living organisms within the chamber through the use of specifically programmed sterilization cycles. By definition, Webster’s defines a sterilizer as a piece of equipment used to destroy microorganisms in or on, usually by bringing to a high temperature with steam, dry heat, or boiling liquid. However, there are a broad range of processes used for sterilizing:
Dry Heat Sterilization
Glass Bead Sterilization
Sterilization With Ultraviolet Radiation
While many say that sterilizers and autoclaves are synonymous, they are more like a tree-sterilizers are the trunk that autoclaves branch out from. A sterilizer is a general term for any equipment that can sterilize.
An autoclave sterilizer is a specific device that sterilizes equipment. The name is a combination of two ancient words: auto- which is Greek for self, and clave-which is Latin for key. When combined the two words mean “self-locking”.
One of the things that sets steam autoclaves apart from other sterilizers is this automatic lock feature. Since an autoclave is a sterilizer, its purpose is like sterilizers-to kill or remove all forms of life on an object’s surface such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and spores. While autoclaves solely utilize steam to disinfect, sterilizers can use chemicals, high pressure, filtration, irritation, or a combination of these methods to eliminate living organisms.
Not all sterilizers can be autoclaves sterilizers because not every device can withstand the high temperatures needed to kill every organism. If someone was to use a different type of equipment the material could melt and morph making it unusable.