Selecting Operatory Equipment

March 1, 2001
How do I know everything that is available today? What equipment do I need in my operatory? Do I need chairside computers and what are the advantages?

Jeff Carter, DDS

How do I know everything that is available today?

What equipment do I need in my operatory?

Do I need chairside computers and what are the advantages?

How do busy practitioners find time to research and select operatory equipment that fulfills their needs and objectives? Do busy practitioners even know what their needs are when it comes to new operatory equipment purchases?

First thing we need is a plan to keep us updated on what new operatory equipment is available. This five-step regimen of information-gathering will keep you informed and on the cutting-edge of operatory-equipment development:

1) Conventions and dental meetings:

Make room in your busy schedule to attend one convention per year that displays equipment from all major vendors. I think the current "buzz word" for these large conventions is "dental meetings." Yearly attendance to at least one meeting such as the Chicago Midwinter, Denver Midwinter, Yankee Dental Meeting, Hinman Dental Meeting, or ADA Annual Meeting is an absolute must if you want to stay current.

At these major meetings you are exposed to a wide variety of new equipment and updated existing equipment. In addition, you develop a sense of which vendors consistently display products at these events. The high-quality reputable companies that have long-established track records of creating, developing, and manufacturing the best operatory equipment have exhibits at most major meetings.

Unless I am walking out of Starbuck's with a soon-to-be-empty Venti cup of double-strength Breakfast Blend in my hand, I am not that big of an extrovert. I don't need to have a 20-minute conversation with every person I pass. If you are anything like me, one full day a year on the dental meeting exhibit floor is enough. I was often uncomfortable walking the display aisles with my doctor's "bulls-eye" tag hanging from my neck. If you need a quick break from the action on the meeting floor but still want to walk around, remember to accidentally turn the front-side of your name tag towards your shirt or blouse ... works every time.

2) Trade publications

The next time you or a staff member are at the office mailbox with a crow bar trying to remove the day's delivery of junk mail, separate out any of the major trade publications and put them in a stack on your desk. Almost all practitioners receive the same four or five main trade publications, including Dental Equipment and Materi-als, which of course should be on top of the stack. If all you have time to do is "thumb" through the publications and read an occasional article, you will at least see and be aware of the current trends and developments. I have more time to "thumb" through various publications than you do and I can't come close to reading everything either. As a consultant, I am asked a wide variety of equipment questions. In the future I may get a question like, "did you see the new piezo-electric, self-immolating digital veneering wand?" "Oh yeah... I saw it in Dental Equipment & Materials." I don't have a clue what it does, but I saw a picture of it. It makes me feel better and you will feel better to be at least aware of what is out there.

3) Dental equipment supplier

For those of you with a good long-term relationship with a dental equipment supplier/representative, he or she is invaluable for helping select new equipment and maintaining existing equipment. Make time at least once a year to meet with or go to lunch with your "rep" and have a discussion on new products and get an update on the status of existing major equipment in your office. Ask questions like: Is my central air compressor is good shape? If my 15-year-old chairs stop functioning, can we get replacement parts?

4) Internet

Surprisingly, the Internet availability of information on dental equipment is not at the level of most the other products that have nothing to do with dentistry. Instead of web surfing to research operatory equipment, I often revert to the standard practice of calling a manufacturer; asking questions, and then having them send me their latest equipment catalog. The Internet is great for computer hardware and products you can use to help integrate dental high tech into your office. We found a dual-head graphics card on the Internet that allows one computer to multi-task two different monitors. That discovery created several design ramifications that ultimately effected the placement of dental equipment in the operatory.

5) Colleague referrals

Make a habit of asking colleagues "have you purchased any new operatory equipment you would recommend?" That's a great question the next time you run out of things to say during a conversation at a study club, county dental meeting, or on a break at a continuing-education course. If you ask this question enough times, you may uncover some great new product that is worth your valuable time to research and possibly purchase.

Operatory Chairs Manufacturers

Accu Bite Dental Supply


A-Dent Dental Equipment

Ampco Dental Equipment

Aseptico Inc.

Beaverstate Dental Inc.

Belmont Equipment

Boyd Industries, Inc.

Dansereau Health Products

Dental EZ

Dentech Corp.

DNTLworks Equipment Corp.

Engle Dental Systems

Forest Medical Products, Inc.


Jedmed Instrument Company

KaVo America Corporation

Link Dental Division

Marus Dental International


Orascoptic Research

P.S.A., Inc.

Patterson Dental Supply

Pelton and Crane


Professional Sales Associates, Inc.

Ross Orthodontic Equipment

Royal Dental Mfg.


Summit Dental Systems

Westar Medical Products

What equipment is utilized in most all procedures?

  • Delivery unit(s)
  • Dental patient chair
  • Doctor and assistant stools
  • Patient light or operating-field illumination

To ultimately decide your operatory equipment needs, focus on the basics first.

Ensure all equipment on the above list is functioning satisfactorily in your office before you spend money on the latest "giz-whiz".

This brings us to another related question. Do I need chairside computers and what are the advantages?

Whether you choose to purchase chairside computers now or later, their ultimate placement in the operatory dictates usage on all procedures. Electronic patient files are opened as frequently as dental patient chairs are reclined. Why is that important? Integrated chairside computers and their peripherals become number five on the previous list of basic dental equipment used on most all procedures. A locked-up computer network can be as detrimental to your productivity as the loss of adequate suction or air pressure.

The value of chairside computers is not really the question anymore. The real question is how to take full advantage of the amazing benefits of chairside computers without destroying 50+ years of dental-ergonomic principles in the operatory.