By Leslie Canham, CDA, RDA
Dental assistants have many important responsibilities. Their tasks include patient care, infection control, inventory control, and equipment maintenance. On top of all of the daily duties, there are periodic chores to do weekly, monthly, annually, or at other intervals. With all there is to do in a dental office, it’s easy to omit maintenance in areas that are highly visible to patients. Here is a list of things you can do to keep your clinical area in top shape and looking great.
The dental chair and operator stools should be cleaned periodically. Use mild soap and water and clean all surfaces, including the chair base assembly. Upholstery on dental chairs and stools can become cracked and worn over time. Harsh disinfectants can contribute to discoloration or damage. Cracked or damaged upholstery is unsightly and makes cleaning and disinfection difficult. Using plastic barriers can extend the life of the upholstery. There’s no need to disinfect surfaces that are protected by impervious barriers, unless the barriers are compromised or the chair surfaces become contaminated during barrier removal. Contact the chair manufacturer for recommendations on how to keep the upholstery in top condition.
The dental unit
In addition to handpiece, water, and evacuation line maintenance, the dental unit should be checked to make sure that all hoses are free of leaks, dust, and debris. Refer to the owner’s manual for information on what type of maintenance is recommended and how often it should be scheduled. This might include checking air and water pressure and replacing o-rings and filters as necessary. Some dentists like to perform these minor maintenance procedures, while others prefer to bring in a dental equipment specialist. Either way, it is a good idea to have regular maintenance performed on items that need attention.
The overhead light that illuminates the oral cavity should be cleaned according to the manufacturer’s directions. The light becomes hot during use, so be sure to allow the lens to cool before cleaning. Touching a warm lens with a damp cloth can cause the lens to crack. Use a mild detergent and a soft cloth to wipe the lens free of smudges and debris. The reflector can be scratched and damaged very easily by improper cleaning. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions precisely when it is necessary to clean the reflector. Also, make sure there is a spare bulb on hand.
The X-ray unit
When cleaning and dusting the X-ray unit, fully extend the arm assembly holding the X-ray head. Look closely for debris, stains, or other contaminates. If the arm assembly moves or drifts without being touched, it should be tightened. A loose arm assembly can compromise X-ray accuracy and accidentally drift onto the patient’s head, causing injury. X-ray aprons should be checked periodically for cracks or tears. Aprons should be hung rather than folded because folding can crease the protective lining and cause unseen cracks, through which the patient could be exposed to radiation.
Appearance of the treatment room
Working in the same treatment rooms every day can make people immune to signs of wear, age, and disrepair of furniture, equipment, and cabinetry. This can send the wrong message to patients. Our patients expect us to be detail-oriented and our work environment should reflect that. To see your office through the eyes of the patient, take a few moments to look closely at the treatment room. Inspect the surfaces of counter tops, drawers, and shelves for stains or damage. Sit in the dental chair and look around. Are there areas that need cleaning or repair? Next, lie back in the dental chair and look at the ceiling. Are there water stains, broken ceiling tiles, chipped paint, or cobwebs? Finally, look at the flooring for areas that need attention. If the operatory has carpet, are there visible stains? Is carpet cleaning regularly scheduled?
The dental assistant can perform most of the maintenance chores mentioned here. Dental assistants can make a big difference in the appearance of the treatment rooms by focusing on areas that are sometimes overlooked.
Leslie Canham is a dental speaker and consultant specializing in infection control and OSHA compliance. She has more than 36 years of experience in dentistry. Canham is the founder of Leslie Canham Seminars, providing in-office training, mock inspections, consulting, and online seminars and webinars to help the dental team navigate state and federal regulations. Reach Canham at (888) 853-7543 or Leslie Canham.
By Leslie Canham, CDA, RDA