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Dentistry has undergone drastic changes since its beginning till the present date. Proficient practice management in dentistry is governed by various factors such as location, accessibility, and most importantly quality of treatment, which is the main criterion that makes a successful dentist stand out from the rest. Every dentist running a clinical practice has entrepreneurial qualities, and must focus on various aspects of the clinic to ensure a successful dental practice.
Dental equipment plays a major role in determining the proficiency of dental practice. Over the years, various advances in dental equipment has drastically reduced chair time, which is one of the most valuable resources dentists have. With reduction in time taken for each patient, while maintaining good quality of treatment, the dentist is able efficiently treat more patients and thereby run a successful practice.
What are the equipment used in dentistry?
Equipment used in dentistry can be classified under various heads. Ranging from the large dental chair to the small micromotor handpiece, every piece of equipment in the dental office is of great value to the dental practitioner. They are to be maintained with great care to prolong their durability. Some of the important dental equipment are:
DENTAL CHAIRS & ACCESSORIES:
The most noticeable piece of equipment in the dental clinic is the dental chair. It is highly significant in efficient treatment delivery. An ergonomically designed dental chair provides comfort to the patients as well as the dentist and as a result is an important determinant of good treatment experience. Dental chairs have been modified drastically since over the last few decades. Dental units have also been made in portable versions which find their place in mobile dental treatment, being easily packable and transportable. The various parts of a stationary dental unit include the spittoon or cuspidor, saliva ejectors, three way syringes, cart delivery system, pilot light, x ray viewers, bracket tables, high and low speed handpiece adaptors, foot control and push buttons to adjust the parameters of the chair. Although not the most attractive element in the dental office, air compressors are definitely one of the most essential parts of the dental operatory. They clean, compress and store air which is used to drive rotary handpieces such and airotors and air syringes. Dental air compressors if well maintained can last 10 to 15 years without hassle. Stagnation of liquids in the operating field as a result of the air spray from rotary devices and the patients’ saliva is highly undesirable. This makes the use of suction units highly significant in dental treatment. Suction units can enhance the treatment process by increasing patient comfort, cleaning away the excess materials, keeping the operating field dry and providing better visibility to the dentist. Other auxiliary attachments for the dental chair such as an LCD display connected to an intra oral camera can be useful in patient education as well.
GENERAL DENTAL EQUIPMENT:
General equipment used in dentistry are scalers, shade guides, amalgamators, mixers, dispensers, needle burners and bleaching equipment. They are significant parts of the dental inventory.
Ultrasonic scalers are one of the most used dental equipment in clinical practice. Oral prophylaxis procedures are becoming increasingly important and necessary. These scalers are used to remove plaque, calculus and tartar from the patients tooth surfaces which are not removed during brushing and flossing.
Shade guides are electronic devices that are used to perfectly match shades of teeth for restorative purposes. In the age of increased demand for esthetics, electronic shade guides might be a great value addition for the clinic. Amalgamators have eliminated the need for manipulation of the alloy powder and mercury in a mortar and pestle saving significant amount of chair time. This also ensures perfect mixing of the particles resulting in a restoration with desirable properties. Mixing equipment such as the Alghamix II by Zhermack aid the dentist in perfect manipulation of impression materials. Automixing units such as the Pentamix 3 and MixStar eMotion result in perfect mixing of expensive impression materials, thereby increase the chances of quality impressions and optimize the quantity of material used for each impression. Needle burners are essential to ensure destruction of used needles, which is an important aspect of responsible waste management. Bleaching and whitening units are used by the dentist to treat patients seeking esthetic correction.
The small dental equipment used are hanpieces, light curing units, intra oral cameras and dental magnification loupes. These set of equipment are of high value in dental practice management. Used almost every day, special care must be taken to maintain this equipment to further prolong their durability and efficiency. Dental handpieces have undergone drastic changes from the primitive dental drill used with a foot controlled air compression unit. Now handpieces are available in straight and contra-angled variants to suit different clinical presentations. Low speed and high speed handpieces operating at speeds ranging from less than 10000 rpm to more than 300000 rpm are available today, used in various different treatment modalities. Light curing units are another important piece of dental equipment They are used to polymerize photochemically cured composite resins. The advent of light cure composite resins gave dentists the control over polymerization of the resin. Light cure units usually emit blue light between 400 – 500 nm which is ideal for curing. Intra oral cameras have been a great tool that helps dentists to educate patients about their oral health status. Patients can virtually take a tour of their entire oral cavity and see what the dentists see with up to 25x magnification. Intra oral cameras can be highly useful in making patients understand the idea behind specific dental treatments. While intra oral cameras are aids for the patients to see their oral cavity, dental loupes and magnifiers are highly beneficial for the dentists to visualize their operating area. The use of loupes can be greatly useful while performing endodontic treatment, where magnified visualization of the access cavity proves to be significant. Loupes manufactured by Heine, IDS Denmed, Medirer and others are available online.
One of the most commonly performed treatments in dentistry is endodontic therapy of teeth which have been affected by irreversible pulpitis. There is a requirement of high precision when dealing with endodontics as the dentist is dealing with parts of the tooth that are not clinically visible.
Apex locators are used by the dentist to evaluate the working length during treatment. The determination of the exact working length is of paramount importance in endodontic treatment as it serves as a guideline for all the other aspects of therapy as well. Apex locators have become a near essential element in endodontic treatment which reduces the treatment time drastically. Endomotors are devices used to power handpieces which are employed in shaping of the root canal using rotary file systems. The advent of endomotors has greatly shrunk the time taken for root canal shaping, replacing the traditional treatment using only handfiles. Endomotors integrated with apex locators have been developed, eliminating the necessity for two pieces of equipment. The lateral condensation technique in root canal obturation have been used for ages. This technique may be quite time consuming. Hence obturation using thermo-plasticized forms of gutta percha has been made possible with the advent obturation systems. These systems use the alpha form of gutta percha, and have proven to have greater apical sealing properties. Pulp testers are equipment to used to test the vitality of the tooth. The pulp is the tissue enclosed in the pulp chamber and canal, providing blood and nerve supply to the tooth. In cases of suspected pulpal inflammation or necrosis pulp testers can be used to determine whether a particular tooth requires endodontic therapy or a restoration would suffice.
With the discovery of X-rays in 1895 by Roentgen, the diagnostic world in all fields of healthcare saw a major advancement. Dentistry was also greatly benefitted by this discovery. X-rays are of paramount importance in dentistry as they help to visualize the portions of the tooth and jaws that are clinically invisible. They have also been used in many cases to detect tumors at early stages, thereby providing a better prognosis of treatment of such cases. Most dental offices have an x ray unit incorporated in their dental units, providing a diagnostic advantage to the dental practitioner.
Traditionally x rays have been recorded on film and processed in solutions to make the latent image visible. The dawn of digital imaging systems in dentistry was a complete game changer in this regard. They provided quick imaging solutions which can be displayed on the computer and allow editing of parameters such as contrast to enhance the diagnostic process. Radiovisiography has been used in dentistry for over a decade now and have proven to be a huge boon to the field of dental healthcare.
The importance of sterilization cannot be stressed in any healthcare field, including dentistry. Effective sterilization methods are an essential part of any dental office. With the presence of pathogens such as HIV, Hepatitis B and others, it makes it absolutely necessary to eliminate the presence of any microbes in the instruments and materials used in dental treatment. Sterilization equipment include autoclaves, UV cabinets, glass bead sterilizers, ultrasonic cleaners, hot air ovens and others. The autoclaves, working on the principle that moist air is more effective in killing microbes than dry air, is one of the most commonly used sterilization equipment to destroy bacteria, in the vegetative or spore form. The autoclave must be big enough to accommodate the clinics items. Glass bead sterilizers are sterilization units loaded with glass beads and are heated up to 260oC when they are switched on. The dentist places the instruments, such as endodontic files, in the glass beads for 15 seconds to sterilize them. UV cabinets emit ultraviolet light to sterilize the instruments placed inside them. Ultrasonic cleaners are employed in sterilization of soiled instruments used in dentistry.
OTHER DENTAL EQUIPMENT:
Laser dentistry is a major advancement in the field of dental healthcare. Dental lasers, various types have been developed to be used in various fields of dentistry. Some of the advanced lasers can be used in most types of dental treatment ranging from treatment of aphthous ulcers to oral surgeries. Equipment have been manufactured for specific dental procedures as well. Implant motors are rotary systems used in preparation of the maxillary and mandibular alveolar processes for the placement of a dental implant. Implant pointers are devices used to locate the exact positon of the implant after osseointegration, while placing the healing abutments, with minimal damage to the soft tissue covering.
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