Tips on Purchasing Dental Equipment

Central Dental Solutions has come up with a list of tips when purchasing dental equipment. Whether you are updating equipment in an existing practice or starting from scratch, we think you will find these pointers helpful.

Dental Millwork

 Firstly, you will need to decide on what operatory layout is best for practice; Open concept, semi-closed or closed operatory. Open concept offers flexibility and the best amount of space and requires less wall construction which can save time. Closed operatories often require less millwork and are much more private but take more space. Since the covid 19 pandemic, we have seen more offices turning to closed operatories for increased infection control and air quality.

  • There are dental millwork applications that give you very standard configurations, and there are also dental millwork companies that allow quite a range of customization to design what you want.
  • One often overlooked fact is that dental millwork with a serial number is considered dental equipment and can be depreciated as such. General, built-in millwork from a contractor, is viewed the same as leasehold improvements. There is a tax advantage to buying dental millwork, which can make the net cost more attractive; additionally, dental brand millwork will have much more resale value in the future.

Dental Chairs

High-quality chairs that are comfortable for patients are an important part of your clinic. There are many upholstery options to choose from. Stylized options have more stitching and may use softer materials to add a nice look, and often are more comfortable. Asepsis options upholstery has cleaner lines and is easier to keep disinfected but can be less comfortable. We also find that asepsis-style upholstery tends to have a longer lifespan.

  • Most quality chairs will have a cast aluminum back instead of plastic covers and a cast aluminum base instead of a flat plate.

Dental Handpiece Controls

The decision on your dental handpiece control is very important for operatory layout. Often in a larger practice setting, you will want to consider options that are flexible for right-handed and left-handed operators. The most common L-R-friendly dental handpiece controls are rear delivery (12 O’clock) or from a pivot under the chair (often called pivot or radius delivery). There is also the option of handpiece controls from a mobile cart or a side delivery arm, although these are fewer common options. You will also need to consider assistant controls – vacuums + Syringes which can be mounted to the rear cabinets or the chair.

  • Don’t take shortcuts when purchasing dental handpiece control, as these are one piece of equipment that can cause the most service-related issues. Especially with water and air coolant for high speeds, having precision controls help you do your job.

Dental Overhead Light

Most dental lights are now LED, although halogen is still a less expensive option. You will want to consider the brightness and colour range. A very important function of your operatory is the locations of your overhead light; they can be chair-mounted, ceiling-mounted, wall-mounted, or in a surgical room setting, they can also be track-mounted.

  • In the operatory design layout, you want to ensure that what style of light you have chosen and where it is positioned works well with the position of your intra-oral x-ray.

Dental Operatory Seating (Stools)

Dental operatory seating is very important as dental professionals spend a large portion of their career in them. The right stool can increase operating comfort, reduce fatigue and even the risk of long-term injury. There are many styles to choose from standard to saddle to inflatable sears, with many options for tilt and lumbar support.

  • Wherever possible, it is a good idea to demo a stool before purchasing to ensure it will work well for you.

Dental X-Ray

Under this heading, there are both intra-oral and extra-oral x-rays starting with the intra-oral; depending on the layout of your operatories, it may be possible to share these between 2 ops. It is important that if you are using digital technology, you purchase intra-oral x-rays with a direct current emitter.

  • Above, we have mentioned the intra-oral x-ray generator. You also need an x-ray processor. In the days of analog, this was a unit with a developer and fixing solutions in it. Now, most offices have digital, and you will either choose digital wired sensors or a phosphor plate system. The advantage of digital sensors is that they provide the best image for diagnosis, and within seconds for exposure, the image will appear on your screen. On the other hand, they are expensive and can be more difficult to position in a patient’s mouth. Phosphor plate systems use imaging plates that are much more like traditional film and so are easier for the patient and also for the staff that are used to the positioning technique with film, and are also less expensive. However, after the image is taken you have to scan the image off of the plate into the phosphor plate scanner, adding time compared to sensors. Some offices choose to use the sensors for certain procedures but complement them with a phosphor plate scanner. This gives the flexibility to have a backup system, and the phosphor plates give you an economical way to take #1 and #0 images for pediatrics or patients with limited openings.
  • On extraoral x-ray there are pan units, pan/ceph combination, pan/cbct combos or pan/ceph/cbct combos. Pan and cephs are 2D images. Cbct is 3D imaging which requires special software. cbct is becoming more mainstream but will require a dedicated room with lead lining and a leaded door.
  • When purchasing x-ray equipment, it is important to know your regional governing body. In Manitoba, this is the radiation protection department for cancer care. All equipment must be registered with them.

Sterilization Equipment

Sterilization equipment is increasingly important in the operation of dental clinics, with increased emphasis on infection control. Starting with your sterilization millwork, it is critical to have a defined flow in one direction with no crossover from dirt to clean.

  • You will need to consider how you will do your instrument pre-clean, whether it is an ultrasonic cleaner or an instrument washer. Ultrasonic cleaners are less expensive but require more instrument handling by your staff, and instruments are still wet after pre-cleaning. Although they are more costly instruments, washers are ideal for the use of instrument cassettes, require the least amount of handling, reduce the risk of injury while handling sharp instruments and deliver dry instruments at the end of the cycle.
  • When it comes to sterilization, there are class B and Class S-type sterilizers. Class b is the most advanced and delivers the driest, cleanest sterilization process. However, they are more costly than the standard class s and typically cost more to maintain.
  • The infection Control protocol is changing. Consult your association or dental industry specialist to find current requirements in your region.

Mechanical Equipment

Often overlooked, as they are buried in your mechanical room or in your basement is your air compressor and your vacuum unit. At Central Dental we refer to these 2 equipment items as the “heart and lungs” of a dental clinic

  • All new dental air compressors are oilless and deliver medical-grade air. It is important to size them according to the number of operatories that are used simultaneously as well as consideration for any lab equipment of CADCAM mills that require air.
  • Vacuum systems are available in liquid ring style or in dry-vacuum configuration. Liquid rings require water to operate and are less expensive and smaller. Dry vacuum options provide better suction long term, generally have a longer lifespan and require less maintenance. The up-front cost can often be recovered in the first five years by water/waste charge savings as well as the savings on disposable filter bowls required for liquid ring pumps
  • Lastly, most dental clinics require amalgam separators to reduce amalgam in wastewater. This system is hooked into the incoming vacuum line.
  • It is a good idea to have quarterly maintenance on your mechanical equipment. Investing this can into your “heart and lungs” can significantly reduce the chance of a costly emergencies and downtime.

We trust this overview and tips on purchasing dental equipment have been helpful to you. As well as looking at the various dental brand names it is always important to have a good working relationship with a dental service provider with your back. When laid out and planned carefully, a good dental service provider will give you the best opportunity to succeed. Any time there is a breakdown, it is important that you have confidence that they can get you up and running as soon as possible.

  • The best dental service providers will always consult with you on your unique needs and will plan a solution that is right for you.

Reach out to a Central Dental Equipment Specialist by e-mailing or calling 1-800-665-7302.