If a dental surgery or laboratory is to run smoothly, it is essential that equipment is effectively maintained and that maintenance procedures are strictly adhered to. Faulty equipment is not only inconvenient to both staff and patients, for example, if a breakdown causes a delay, but it could also pose a serious risk of injury or infection to either party. Dental equipment and instruments are generally expensive to repair or replace, and many have intricate mechanisms that are easy to damage and time-consuming to fix.
All medical devices have been required to carry a ‘CE’ mark since June 1998 to demonstrate compliance with the required standards, and when new instruments or dental equipment supplies are purchased, they must also be compatible with existing equipment. It is the responsibility of the practice manager to set up appropriate maintenance procedures in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and to ensure that they are adhered to.
All staff members need to be made aware of their duty of care to prevent putting others at risk by failure to maintain equipment correctly, as per the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act.
The following is a general guide to the maintenance of equipment, and more detailed guidance can be obtained from equipment manufacturers or dental equipment supplies, such as Photo Surgical Systems.
Hand instruments need to be effectively cleaned, sterilised and inspected for wear. Items that need to stay sharp for precise work, such as chisels, probes and excavators, can easily be blunted after many cycles of cleaning and sterilising, so regular sharpening is also essential. Care must be taken not to damage brittle instruments during the cleaning process.
Handpieces and rotary/air-driven instruments
Handpieces are complicated and expensive items that must be carefully maintained by certified technicians, and this servicing process is generally contracted out. Day-to-day maintenance should include cleaning, sterilising and lubricating the equipment.
Filters should be regularly cleaned and tubing should be flushed through with water after each patient to prevent mucous build-up.
Specialist technicians generally service electrical equipment, particularly radiography equipment that must have all chemicals changed regularly.
Proper maintenance of equipment in the dental environment, alongside the correct training of staff, will help to ensure high standards of patient care and a smooth-running practice.