Beyond Repair

Oct. 1, 2012
Going digital has been rehashed many times in this and other columns. We have extolled the virtues of digital radiography ...

By Paul Feuerstein, DMD

Going digital has been rehashed many times in this and other columns. We have extolled the virtues of digital radiography, chartless offices, and more, but have left out other parts of the office I’ll mention here.

Computers are in treatment rooms, and most offices have done a great job of retrofitting the rooms to accommodate monitors, workstations, keyboards, and other input devices. Holes are drilled and wires fished around chairs, cabinets, and countertops. Many of us want two monitors – one behind the patient and one in front. Clever wall-mounted brackets and arms are often installed.

Also, as more new equipment is purchased, control units and power cords are carefully set on the counters and more wires are run. There are a few more foot pedals to kick out of the way, and these devices are moved around on the countertops when a patient comes into the room.

Then there are the treatment chairs. Several companies will come to your office and do a fabulous job of recovering those bright yellow or orange chairs and stools. The new coverings have fewer seams and are a bit easier to disinfect.

Of course, overzealous spraying of the up/down and other buttons on the chairs sometimes leads to malfunctions and a search for replacement parts. Technicians often have to come in twice – once for the diagnosis and parts ordering, and later to install the parts. Sometimes this takes the unit out of action for days.

Do you have a hole in your handpiece control block diaphragm? Broken water or air flow dial? No problem. Guess where I am leading now. Have you looked recently at the new treatment room equipment and cabinetry?

There have been many changes in equipment and cabinetry — far beyond upgrades — and many things have been completely redesigned. Starting at the top, we have looked previously in this column at the new LED lights from Pelton & Crane and DentalEZ, which lead the pack. But other manufacturers have come forward.

None of these look anything like those we have seen in the past. Small, round shapes have been introduced by A-dec, Belmont, Midmark, and Sirona. Many other companies have novel touch or remote switches as well as remarkable directed brightness. Even in curing mode, this may eliminate the need for fiber-optic handpieces or headlights.

The units are also now George Jetson-like. In speaking with A-dec, the company said treatment rooms are like new kitchens or smartphones, removing countertop clutter while combining several functions into one unit. All of the modern units have consolidated the controls of scalers, handpieces, and curing lights. The devices that were scattered across countertops with wires, hoses, and multiple foot pedals are integrated in the control box with only one foot pedal, and each piece in an air- or electric-actuated hanger.

Some of the units also use small control screens that are touchpads. Pelton & Crane refers to them as “centrally located for ideal ergonomic operation, minimizing far reaches to one side.” The buttons and dials have been replaced with touch panels, reminiscent of iPads or tablets. (In fact, Bien-Air actually incorporates an iPad into its iChiro handpiece control.)

This includes sonic and ultrasonic scalers, curing lights, endo handpieces, and other operating equipment. In addition, the intraoral camera can be put on one of these hangers, which turns it on when lifted, so it is literally at your fingertips next to the handpiece and air/water syringe. Speaking of water, the newer units have self-contained water systems that allow easy disinfection of the lines to prevent biofilm.

Many controls on the chairs are also smooth touchpads or foot controls that are easy to disinfect. The upholstery is virtually seamless, allowing better disinfection. The hoses are also in better configurations, as well as being smooth and cleanable. In addition, there are stronger designs and materials that allow for thinner and narrower chair backs.

The next time you call a serviceperson or look for colored duct tape to remedy a tear, make an appointment to go to your local dental supply showroom or come to a dental meeting with exhibitors and see what you are missing.

Paul Feuerstein, DMD, installed one of dentistry’s first computers in 1978. For more than 20 years, he has taught technology courses. A general practitioner in North Billerica, Mass., since 1973, Dr. Feuerstein maintains a website (, and can be reached at [email protected].

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