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Standing against pathogenic bacteria with a pioneering spirit

Combating biofilm in suction systems presents particular challenges for research-based companies. Since the first suction systems found their way into German dental practices at the beginning of the 1960s, dental treatment has been made more pleasant in many ways. One change in particular was crucial for the dentist: an unimpeded view of their working area. Because now, saliva and blood disappeared via cannulas into the pipes and receptacles of the suction system. The result was a dry and easily-observable oral cavity.

Enthusiasm over these improved working conditions soon gave way, however, to a sense of disillusion. What pleased the dentists' eye could not belie what his nose told him: there was an odor. Outside the dentist's field of view, and that of his team, the pathogenic bacteria the liquids contained, once aspirated, were living a dangerous life of their own, because the biofilm, a conglomerate of organic material and substances such as dental materials or prophylactic powders, contaminated the whole system through the suction hoses. The risk of infection which this created for the patients, the dentist and their staff meant that something had to be done quickly. At first, though, there were no adequate » disinfection and cleansing materials for the new suction systems. Dürr Dental put the first suction systems on the market. Now, the researchers there sought a solution which would prevent this innovation from failing after just a short time. The result of their efforts was a product that is still on the market today. Since 2013, Christian Pflug has been head of the Hygiene Section at Dürr Dental. In an interview, he speaks about the path » Orotol has taken from the initial formula to the premium product.

D’life: The story of Orotol is closely connected with your family. Your father, Ludwig Pflug, together with Walter Dürr, is said to have mixed the first version of the recipe in a bathtub. Do you remember how that

At the beginning of the 1960s, the first suction units developed by Dürr Dental came on the market. That was not only a major step in protecting the dentist and practice team against potentially pathogenic bacteria – at the same time, through this innovation, the company started a paradigm change. While previously the patients had sat upright, now it was possible to treat them in a supine position, which since then has made dentists' work much easier. In the aspirated liquid, which consists of blood, saliva, dentine and residues of the dental materials used, among other things, bacteria find optimum conditions for reproducing – a development which takes place gradually in the system. The associated processes involve unpleasant odors and risk of infection. So the developers rapidly had to address the subject of suction unit disinfection. My father, together with Walter Dürr, did indeed start the first experiments in his own home. The two men made up various formulas in large receptacles in the bathtub, until they found the optimum mixture. The result was then aspirated through tubes and filled into bottles. That was when the first generation of Orotol was born.

Where, in your opinion, did the particular obstacles lie in developing an effective disinfectant for suction units?

The problem was that a disinfectant had to be found for a technical innovation which had never existed in this form before. The developers were entering completely new territory – on a path which therefore initially involved some failed experiments. A disinfectant for a suction system must fulfill very unique requirements. For example, because aspirating fluids and air at the same time in a single system tends to create foam. The first products, based on chloramine, still foamed heavily, and thus affected the way the equipment functioned. The products which came after them, based on phenol, no longer exhibited this side effect. Another major factor is the large number of materials, some of them sensitive, used by the equipment manufacturers. So a suitable disinfectant had to be equally effective, foam-free and material-friendly.

To what extent has the formula been modernized over the years?

As far as disinfection quality is concerned, Orotol was very high-grade from the start. Care has been taken to ensure that it is environmentally friendly, and also non-harmful to the health of patients and users. After the initial formulas, the generations which followed have been based on quaternary ammonium compounds and oxygen-releasing agents. All products are biodegradable in accordance with the OECD guideline.

Why do you think Orotol is still the market leader today?

Dürr Dental was the first manufacturer able to supply its customers with both the suction system and the cleaners and disinfectants they urgently needed from a single source. Because of this close link, the two areas of expertise – technology and chemistry – are perfectly matched. In addition, its material-friendly formula ensures that the system retains maximum value. The central focus is certainly the broad spectrum of success. Disinfection for suction systems works reliably against tuberculosis germs and the Hepatitis C virus. Moreover, it is fungicidal, limitedly virucidal, and combats non-enveloped viruses such as the adenovirus or norovirus.

Where do you see further potential for improvement in the future?

Orotol already allows us to keep up a very high level of suction unit disinfection. Nevertheless, since Dürr Dental is a company engaged in research, it is always interested in further improvements – even if they only involve refinements. Therefore, product development is constantly subject to new regulations by legislators. Nuanced increases in potency, fragrance or user-friendliness are likewise quite conceivable.

Thank you for the interview.

Published by: rf/tk 04/16
Christian Pflug, Head of the Hygiene Section at Dürr Dental and son of the inventor of Orotol

Christian Pflug, Head of the Hygiene Section at Dürr Dental and son of the inventor of Orotol