Keep it clean (and send the right message)


By Dave Anderson, president, The Dentists’ Voice
July 26, 2013

From your patient’s point of view, your operatory lights may be a reflection of the quality of your dentistry. While there is no direct correlation, when patients see a streaked and cracked lens shield or reflector, they might assume that the quality of your dentistry is lacking. Keeping the lens shields and reflectors clean and in good condition will send the right message.


Here are some tips for keeping your operatory lights looking good and functioning properly.

Nearly all models of halogen operatory lights have a protective plastic lens shield. The shield protects the patient in the unlikely event of a bulb explosion. It also protects the optical lens coating from handpiece aerosols and spray disinfectants. When you use a surface disinfectant on the shields, the clear plastic tends to crack and craze from the effects of the chemicals. Since the shield surface is not normally a source of cross contamination, consider using a plastics cleaner in lieu of disinfectants to clean the shield. Your dental distributor might offer an optical plastic cleaner. If not, try the auto parts or marine store for Plexiglas cleaner. Novus offers some very good optical plastics cleaners that work well on light shields.

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The light handles and the light switches are the primary sources for cross contamination, and are typically made of materials designed to stand up to harsh disinfectants. These surfaces should be either disinfected with surface wipes between patients or covered with barrier bags. If you feel compelled to disinfect the shields, the plastic will look better and last longer if you wipe it with a plastic cleaner after disinfecting to remove any disinfectant.

Since the shields are often made of a soft plastic and tend to scratch easily, always use a soft cotton or microfiber cloth when cleaning. Wiping the shields with a paper towel will damage the plastic surface, and the scratches will be very visible with the light on.

At least once a week, remove the shields and clean them in mild soap and water. Dry the shields using a soft cotton or microfiber cloth.

Even with the best of care, the lens shield will eventually need to be replaced. The good news is that shields are typically quite inexpensive and easy to replace.

On the other hand, the glass lens of a halogen light is expensive to replace. Since the plastic shield protects the lens, the lens should not need to be cleaned often. When lens cleaning is called for, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions carefully. If not cleaned correctly, you might inadvertently remove the delicate optical coating and impact the quality and quantity of light.

Many models of the new technology LED lights have replaceable clear plastic covers or inexpensive replaceable reflective surfaces. With proper cleaning, they should last years.

When lens shields and reflective surfaces no longer exemplify the quality of your dentistry, replace them to make sure that you are not sending the wrong message to your patients.


Over the past thirty years, Dave Anderson has worked with one of the largest distributors of dental products and services in the United States in sales, sales management, marketing, office design service and business management roles. He has also worked with one of the world’s largest dental equipment manufacturers for a number of years. In these capacities, Dave has worked closely with dentists and has an understanding of and an appreciation for the challenges that dentists are faced with when making dental equipment purchasing decisions. To help with these decisions, his company has created a web site with information and reviews on dental capital equipment and related services, The Dentists’ Voice. You can email Dave at
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