Dental tools are necessary for health centers for surgical or laboratory use. These devices are prone to failure, and if they get less preventive maintenance, they are likely to cause inconvenience to both the patient and the dentist. The responsibility of dental tool maintenance is mostly given to the dental assistants.
The tools we are referring to are hand pieces like the scalers, carvers, mirrors, cervical trimmers, tweezers, probes, drills, forceps, pliers, excavators, explorers, hatchets, articulators, elevators, scissors, chisels, holders, curettes, retractors, and banishers: mostly tools found in the tool-belt.
Dental tools can also be mechanical and electrical devices like compressor and vacuum systems, film processors, sterilizers, dental HVEs, ultrasonic cleaner, delivery systems, air polishers, radiography machines, autoclaves, operatory chair, and lights, just to mention a few.
1- High Cost Replacement and Repairs
Dental handheld tools are made of stainless steel material which does not easily rust and has high physical and mechanical properties. It is expensive to replace and repair tools made of stainless steel; these tools also have sensitive and intricate designs. It requires advanced technology to repair dental handpieces that have sophisticated structures, hence an expensive investment.
If a dental tool loses it productivity and efficiency, it is bound to break down and lose its function. The repair cost is usually very high on mechanical and electrical appliances. Some machines produce abnormal noise which needs to be checked. The dental chair needs regular maintenance – lubrication and cleaning for sanitation purpose.
2- Cross Infection and Radiation Exposure
Cleaning is one of the common maintenance methods done on dental tools. Failure to which, the tools become blunt and reduce its functionality. Cleaning also helps remove tool debris, which can interfere with the sterilization and disinfection process.
Williams & Company said, “Improper cleaning and sterilization can cause infections when used on a patient.” Some infections can be severe depending on the germs and bacteria present in the tools. It is rare but important to note that cross infection does occur in a health care environment.
Cross contamination can also affect the user, especially when the tool is faulty. Dental health centers are expected to follow strict state and federal guidelines to curb the risk of cross infection. Dental radiographs relay information of your teeth and usually used to evaluate oral health. If the images are not clean, then the dentist judgment might be wrong. This dental tool emits radiation, if not properly maintained they could lead to unnecessary radiation exposure.
3- Physical and Biological Harm
Faulty tools can cause physical damage to the patient or the user. The patient is very much at a high risk if he or she is being operated. The practitioner should carefully inspect the purchased tools to ensure that they have a mark of quality. Medical items come with a “CE” mark to show that they have been manufactured to high standards and comply with health and safety standards.
There are other specific maintenance practices like sterilizing, lubricating, autoclaving, and tool sharpening; these are required to ensure that the tools remain useful when being used. Failure to lubricate tools will cause them to stall inside the mouth of the patient causing unnecessary interference. All of these practices will apply to equipment that uses motors
RDH conducted a study on how often dentists sharpen their instruments. They found that 25% of them sharpen their instruments less frequently than once every month. Blunt instruments are dangerous and reduce patient comfort level. Sharp tools are optimally performed on treatments such as root anatomy and removal of plaque deposits.
Sharp tools are essential for doing precise work because they decrease operator fatigue and hence reduce the time taken to operate on a patient. Improper tool sharpening or over sharpening can destroy your instrument. Tool sharpening is all about getting a proper angle (70–80°) and using a recommendable technique.
Good preventive maintenance of dental tools goes hand-in-hand with sound laboratory or surgery protocols. This provided high standards of dental service for patients. Proper training for the operators is necessary to ensure that they are aware of the correct working of dental tools. It is also appropriate to pick tools that won’t irritate the gums.
Any malfunction should be reported and immediately repaired before they are used in the patient’s mouth. A scheduled routine maintenance will make sure that the tools are in good shape and avoid any unexpected breakdowns.