Minimizing Injury Risk from Dental Equipment Failure

Proper and regular maintenance of dental equipment is the most effective way to reduce injury risk from equipment failure. Some of these injury risks include severe nerve damage, trauma to the patient’s mouth, jaw, or teeth, and serious infections. Dental equipment maintenance involves performing equipment audits regularly and strictly following the maintenance guidelines of the manufacturer.

Buying Dental Equipment

Dentists are required to use high-quality products that have been manufactured according to the set health and safety standards. By doing that, they can keep both themselves and their patients protected from substandard products that aren’t fail-proof. When buying new dental equipment, a dental professional should make sure it’s compatible with existing equipment. He or she should compare different models of the same equipment from different manufacturers before making a purchase decision. Through careful research and dealing with recognized manufacturers, dentists can significantly reduce injury risks from dental equipment defects.

Dentists can also cut costs by buying used or reconditioned equipment. Before making a purchase decision, however, considering the age and amount of usage the used or reconditioned equipment has withstood is a smart decision. Buying equipment that is more than 10 years old may not make financial sense, as it’s difficult to estimate the number of years left in it.

Equipment Audits

Dentists should perform a thorough audit of their equipment at least once a year. During the audit, they should note down any glitches, repair, and replacements. They should also log any downtime and obtain feedback from staff members. They can also develop a rating system for each piece of equipment, which will determine which item might require replacing first. The rating system can also serve as an early warning.

Dentists should also share their audits with `accredited service technicians. The technicians will then log all the equipment with pictures on their system. This way, in case of malfunction, they will know precisely what the equipment is and will most likely show up with the right spare parts. What’s more, the service technicians can suggest the necessary repairs and replacements to reduce the odds of malfunctions.

Manufacturer’s Maintenance & Safety Guidelines

Dental equipment and tools come with the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions. Staff members must strictly follow these instructions when it comes to servicing the equipment. Dental practice’s staff members have a legal duty that bars them from putting themselves or their patients at risk. The risk may arise from failing to follow the manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines or using poorly maintained dental equipment.

Failure to follow the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions is likely to render the warranty invalid, resulting in higher costs and higher risks. Setting up maintenance routines and following them diligently may ensure adequate maintenance of the dental practice’s equipment and tools. Annual servicing, regular staff training, and comprehensive inspections and audits may also help dentists stay prepared for possible equipment failure.

Additionally, dentists and their staff must pay attention to decibel (dB) levels generated by tools in their workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that employees exposed to noise in excess of 85 dB for eight continuous hours must wear hearing protection devices.

While handpieces and ultrasonic scalers do not operate for eight continuous hours, they do generate bursts of noise well in excess of 85 dB at times that can lead to hearing loss over extended periods of time. Traditional earplugs are not a viable solution as staff must be able to hear and communicate with patients. Therefore an increasingly popular option are earbuds that let you hear your surroundings and conversations while blocking a large amount of potentially harmful equipment noise.

Tips for Handling Different Dental Equipment and Tools

Hand Instruments

Maintaining hand instruments is easy and affordable, as most of them require just regular and thorough cleaning. One of the challenges that dentist face when it comes to hand instruments is blunt instruments that need regular maintenance and effective cleaning. Sharp instruments help dentists perform procedures efficiently and with precision. They also reduce fatigue and generally fast-track the procedure.

Some of the dental instruments that require regular sharpening and cleaning include hand scalers, carvers, probes, chisels, and excavators. It’s imperative to use the right tools and maximum care when sharpening dental instruments to avoid fracturing or breaking brittle and delicate instruments. A fractured dental instrument may inflict an injury on a patient.


Due to the technical nature of handpieces, a dentist shouldn’t attempt to service or repair these pieces of equipment himself or herself. Instead, he or she should enlist the services of licensed technicians when it comes to servicing and repairing handpieces. The dentist can, however, clean, lubricate, and sterilize the handpieces. Setting up contracts with licensed technicians to ensure regular maintenance of handpieces is a surefire way to avoid costly repair fees.

Suction Pumps

Suctions pumps are more susceptible to wear and tear and tend to malfunction more often than all other pieces of dental equipment. Weak suction and unusual noises are the most apparent indications of a suction pump failure. Strictly following the manufacturer’s care and maintenance guidelines can help improve the efficiency and lifespan of these pieces of equipment.

Dental professionals should use the right cleaning products for regular cleaning. They should also ensure louvers or extractor fans are installed on these pumps to prevent overheating, particularly in hot weather and poorly ventilated rooms. Suction pumps should be serviced by an accredited technician at least once a year.

Electrical Equipment

The dental unit is the most important piece of electronic equipment in the dental practice. It must be carefully handled and maintained regularly by qualified technicians. Other pieces of dental electrical equipment, including film processors and radiography machines, should have their chemicals changed on a regular basis.