Guide to Dental Equipment Maintenance

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As with any profession, maintenance of dental equipment is an essential element of a dentist’s practice. While each dental practice varies in specifics, the following guidelines provide a good general framework and schedule for proper maintenance of dental equipment.

Proper Lubrication and Maintenance

Many pieces of dental equipment require regular lubrication for proper functioning. However, grabbing the nearest can of WD40 is not recommended. Not only will doing so void the warranty in many cases, WD40 is not suitable for instruments designed to go into a patient’s mouth. Manufacturers’ specifications and owner’s manuals often provide valuable guidance about approved cleaners and lubricants for specific pieces of equipment. Barring that, contacting the manufacturer directly is advisable.

Owner’s manuals and equipment invoices should be retained for servicing and warranty purposes. It’s also important to keep a supply of silicone rubber seals on hand for various equipment needs. Dentist offices should also acquire the following items for routine equipment maintenance:

  • Handpiece lube and cleaner specified by equipment manufacturers
  • Spare handpiece turbines and light bulbs
  • Curing and operatory lights
  • Air compressor oil specified by the manufacturer, plus intake valves
  • Vacuum intake filters
  • Line cleaner
  • Traps and canisters
  • Extra o-rings and gaskets
  • Chucks and bur tools

Industry Maintenance Checklists

The American Dental Association (ADA) Safety Checklist for Dental Equipment contains a chart that helps dentists and dental assistants keep track of necessary equipment maintenance. The National Network for Oral Health Access (5) (NNOHA) has also compiled a checklist of dental equipment maintenance that indicates recommends specific equipment maintenance tasks take place on a daily, weekly, monthly, bi-annual or annual basis.

Daily and Weekly Maintenance Tasks

Depending on the nature of the practice and the equipment involved, dental equipment maintenance should take place either daily, weekly, monthly, twice per year or annually. Lubrication and sterilization of equipment such as handpieces, nondisposable prophy and contra angles, nose cones and of course, operatory equipment should take place regularly throughout the day — usually between individual patients.

At the end of the day, along with shutting down equipment such as x-rays, sterilizers, scalers, polishers and air compressor systems, the following maintenance tasks should take place. In addition, the following tasks should take place at the end of each day:

  • Clean vacuum traps and shields
  • Suction clean operatory HVE and saliva ejector tubings
  • Clean or replace delivery unit traps
  • Flush handpiece tubings of self contained water bottle systems, as well as air and water syringes and ultrasonic scalers
  • Eliminate biofilm on polishers with air
  • Drain and wipe ultrasonic cleaners

The following maintenance tasks of dental equipment should be performed weekly:

  • Change delivery unit traps
  • Replace o-rings on handpiece couplers, HVE and saliva ejector valves
  • Replace gaskets on handpieces
  • Thorough cleaning of sterilizer interior and exterior, including biological spore test
  • Clean racks
  • Check oil filters
  • Flush handpiece tubings
  • Clean air filters and vacuum lines
  • Check for drift

Monthly and Annual Maintenance Tasks

Each month, dentists or dental assistants should sit in the operatory chair and look up to get a patient’s perspective Check for signs that the premises are less than clean. Other monthly tasks should include the following.

  • Clean or replace plaster traps and master traps
  • Clean model trimmer
  • Clean the intensifying screen and panoramic or ceph cassettes
  • Check rubber elements on emergency oxygen and nitrous oxide systems for deterioration

Annual maintenance tasks include the following:

  • Change lubrication oil
  • Replace air filters
  • Schedule inspection, calibration and certification of x-ray equipment
  • Change sterilizer door gasket and cassette seals

Finally, maintenance processes such as calibration and replacement of worn equipment should take place on an as-needed basis according to the dentist’s own judgment.

Taking the time and effort to perform proper maintenance extends the equipment life, which translates to bottom line savings for the practice. The risk of sudden equipment problems is also reduced dramatically, which should be comforting to both professionals and patients.