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Tips for Selecting the Best Portable Dental Unit for In-Office Use

At first it may seem daunting to try and choose between the various brands of self-contained dental units available. Prices can vary widely with some seemingly too good to be true to even higher priced units not always being clear on what and how well they work. The purpose of this article is to simplify the purchase decision and explain some of the mechanical features and what to look for when comparing different models of portable dental units for your office.

Look for these specific features when evaluating a portable dental unit for purchase to ensure that vibration will be minimized:

Vibration – We will start our discussion with one of the most overlooked but important characteristics of evaluating a portable dental delivery unit. An ideal system will have a powerful compressor and vacuum system, meaning the motors could generate significant vibration. Vibration leaving a chassis can cause sound but also can make the work surface unusable if instruments and trays vibrate excessively and cause more sound. A well-designed unit will ensure that the vibration is minimal and allows for dental procedures to be performed without the interruption of tools vibrating off and that storage of trays and instruments can be utilized on top of the system.

High Grade Compressor and Vacuum Pumps – Higher quality pumps are made with greater precision and the dynamic balancing of the motors and piston will make them run smoother. This smoother operation is the key to beginning with proper construction to eliminate vibration at its source.

Engineered Isolation Mounts – The best way to mount pumps requires not only stable and secure connection to keep the pumps from moving around but also need to eliminate transfer of vibration from the pumps to the chassis. Rubber mounts do a fine job of securing the pump but don’t do very well at absorbing vibration. Improved dynamic mounting is higher quality and eliminates a high percentage of vibration.

Solid and Robust Construction Materials – Units that have poor construction or use flimsy materials will not handle vibration well and will cause problems. A well-built portable dental unit will be not only constructed of high-grade components, but will have thicker walls and materials. To keep these units lighter yet stronger they should use aluminum or an equivalent type of construction. Be cautious of units that are too small or lightweight to properly absorb vibration.

Suction Performance – One of the most difficult design areas for a portable dental unit to create, is the powerful suction desired for dental procedures. It needs to provide high flow with moderate strength to pick up debris, capture water coolant effectively and pull viscous solutions through smaller tubings like the saliva ejector or surgical tips. To effectively work for restorative procedures the system should be able to not only power the high-volume suction, but also be able to extract liquid through the saliva ejector simultaneously. When doing comparisons make sure to evaluate the suction strength of both the high volume and saliva ejector handpieces when used together. Doing so will let you know that you have a well-designed portable dental suction system.

Suction Canister and Purging Ability – The suction canister should be sized to allow for a standard day of procedures with normal rinsing during treatment. Generally, a good baseline is that the canister should hold around two to three liters of liquid. The canister should prevent overflowing by shutting off the vacuum when full and should have an indicator light to let staff know the system needs to be emptied.

Another area when consider portable dental equipment for in office use is a hands-free solution to emptying the contents of the suction canister through a pump and discharge hose system. This eliminates the need to have to manually dump and clean the canister. A purge system can be used to discharge directly into a sink basin or a convenient quick disconnect connected to the plumbing drain system. Once empty, the system can be easily rinsed by evacuating clean water and then cleaned overnight by suctioning in enzymatic cleaner that breaks down the proteins in blood and saliva.

Sound Performance – A very common and important question when selecting a portable dental unit for an office is how loud is it? The reason is that many in the dental field have heard how loud inexpensive and poorly designed dental units with air compressors can be. A well-engineered portable dental system should be very quiet and operate under 48 decibels measured right next to the system. However, sound can be elusive and decibels doesn’t always truly represent sound and secondarily there is no standardized testing certification that can be used to truly compare brands to the sound levels they list. So, the best way to find out if the system you are looking at would be to hear it in person. If that is not practical then either listen to a video of the system operating or from a recommendation from someone you trust that has actually heard the systems. Sound quality varies greatly between suppliers of these systems so it is important to dive into this one area in more detail.

Compressed Air and Handpiece Performance – When evaluating a portable dental unit with compressor, make sure that the internal air compressor provided can produce enough air flow at the right pressure to operate air driven dental turbine handpieces properly. Even electrical dental high speeds use air for cooling and need proper air flow.

Don’t be tricked into using horsepower to try and compare models. Unfortunately, horsepower ratings have a wide range of latitude and marketing companies have used the HP rating to trick many consumers into believing one model is more powerful than another. This is often seen in electric hand tools sold in the big box stores. The best way is to find out if the system you are evaluating can adequately run common brands of dental turbine handpieces for an extended period without pressure dropping.

Aesthetics and Working Easily with the System – Since the system you will be using is in an office it is very important that it looks like a professional piece of dental equipment that delivers high quality care. Even though it is a portable dental unit, it shouldn’t look like it. Look for systems that have enclosures made of not only quality materials but are finished in a way that look modern with rounded corners and edges. Work surfaces should provide adequate working area and provide an easy to clean and attractive surface. As a portable rolling dental cart, it should roll easily with high grade casters. Other considerations include ensuring that the dental unit has non-clinging and non-stiff dental tubings, and that handpieces holders should be modern, rounded and easy to clean.

Electrical Requirements and Testing Lab Approval – A well-designed self-contained dental unit should be able to operate from a standard electrical outlet without overloading the circuit even with both pumps running at the same time.

Ensure that the model you select has a UL certification by an approved testing lab. This will give you peace of mind knowing that all the electrical components, wiring, switches are high quality and have been assembled correctly.

Dental Water Supply and Water Line Disinfection – Current requirements are mandating that the water lines in dental delivery units be disinfected to remove the biofilm that can grow inside the small diameter tubings. Tablets and other chemicals can clog or damage portable dental unit components and require consistent management to ensure that the removal of biofilm is obtained. An ideal portable dental unit should have a water line disinfection cartridge that can be part of the bottle system so that no daily maintenance is required. Since these cartridges can be expensive, select a system with tandem water supply that gives ample water supply for a full day’s procedures but only requires one cartridge to filter both bottles.

Amalgam Separation – If you will be using the portable dental unit for restorative procedures such as removing old amalgam fillings, the suction system will need the ability to use an amalgam separator. This can require the use of an amalgam separator that the unit can be purged through to collect the heavy metals. To meet state and EPA regulations, the amalgam separator must have been tested and approved by a certifying agency. Verify that the portable model you use provide a certified separator option.

Nitrous Oxide scavenging – In office use of a self-contained dental unit often will require the ability to use the portable dental suction to connect to the nitrous patient mask to scavenge off the excess gas. Check to ensure that the portable dental system has the optional capability to be used for nitrous exhaust scavenging.

Please visit ASIDental.Com/Portable-Work  for additional information on ASI Dental’s line of advanced mobile dental delivery system technology.

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How to Plan Your Equipment Build-Out and the Growth Phase of Your Practice

The first step is to plan well and to only purchase the equipment and supplies you can put into production right away. This may mean avoiding supply stocking programs and fully equipped offices unless you really believe they will be used from the start.

Planning out your office and expenditures is more than just getting the right look. Use discernment when reviewing preformatted budget templates, and consider the importance of each area to generating initial practice revenue. Before you purchase equipment, ask yourself if it’s really necessary for you to open your practice. This will help you get down to a much more realistic overall budget that isn’t filled with excess equipment, supplies or post construction décor.

How to select equipment types that easily adapt and can be dropped in as growth requires

Think like a large manufacturer that is planning to grow. These companies need to be able to easily ramp up their production lines in the future, but don’t want to over spend until their sales numbers justify the expansion. So while they would consider finding a large enough facility that allowed for planned growth, pre-wiring it and completing some of the interior finish, they would not buy additional production line equipment until it was required.

The trick is to ensure construction is completed and readily allows for equipment to be moved in, set up and easily connected. There are now handy in-wall and floor junction boxes that facilitate running electrical wiring, IT cabling and plumbing. These built-in boxes come neatly enclosed and don’t detract from an empty treatment room’s appearance, yet they make it very easy to connect equipment as needed.

To maximize your office space cost, it is important to get the most from your space. Building leases are based on a price per square foot, which is the horizontal dimension. Keep in mind you pay nothing more for the vertical space. Large dental cabinets require a big horizontal footprint without adding to treatment capability. Modern dental equipment is more compact and can integrate instruments, computer systems and monitors into one console, reducing the footprint and taking advantage of the vertical space. You can design smaller treatment rooms yet achieve an open and spacious feeling for you and your patients.

Modern modular dental equipment is much easier to set into place and connect without a lot of installation difficulty. This equipment easily adapts to expansion and even different operators’ requirements, including ambidextrous or multi-specialty needs.

No matter what equipment you invest in as you start your practice, don’t feel like you have to buy it all at once. Take a phased approach instead.