Common Equipment Breakdowns and Why They Occur

Dental equipment breakdowns can be a major problem for any practice. Not only do they disrupt patient care, but they also cost the practice time and money.

Common Equipment Breakdowns and Why They Occur

All of your equipment will need upkeep and servicing, and if the manufacturer's guidelines are followed, they should last several years.

Although, there may be times when a piece of equipment malfunctions or breaks down completely. When it comes to avoiding costly downtime that might be caused by equipment failure and maintaining vital equipment, dental engineers are a crucial resource for dental practices.

Equipment malfunctions can have a variety of detrimental effects.

  • Affect the patient’s experience
  • Cause frustration to the user
  • Lead to rebooking of patients

For a dental practice, prevention of future equipment breakdowns is more efficient, rather than repairing equipment as a solution.

Setting up a service schedule is advised for all maintenance and certification periods to ensure the highest possible performance levels and compliance with CQC guidelines.

The Cost of Repairing Equipment

Repairing dental equipment can be expensive, especially if the unit is an older model. The choice will then be whether to replace it with a more modern piece of equipment or leave it running for a little longer.

Check the equipment's age, usage, warranty status and any faults (including those that have already been repaired and those that persist) before deciding whether to repair your equipment.

Also, see this page, Dental Equipment: Repair or Replace, for additional information, including our engineer's best advice and commonly asked questions.

When it comes to costs of repairs, it can be considered a worthwhile investment if the equipment is essential for the practice and repairing it will minimise the disruption of patient care and downtime.

Additionally, if the equipment is relatively new, has a long lifespan and the cost of replacement is high, it may be more cost-effective to opt for repairs.

Malfunctioning Equipment

Suction pumps are the most frequently reported piece of equipment to fail and undergo wear and tear, according to our service staff.

Additionally, inadequate suction and unusual sounds are the two most apparent symptoms of suction pump failure. If not serviced yearly, complex suction pumps with amalgam separators will fail.

Suction pumps and air compressors are both susceptible to malfunctioning and overheating. If this is discovered, it is better to switch it off and avoid using it to prevent further harm.

Equipment that is located in a space with insufficient ventilation, particularly in warm weather, might also overheat.

To avoid this problem, dentists should install vents, louvres, or extractor fans with thermostatic control.

Making notes of unexpected behaviour, including what occurred, when problems first appeared, and how frequently they occurred may substantially aid in a diagnosis and help the engineer shorten the downtime of your equipment.

Above all, if you're unsure, don't hesitate to ask.

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Suction Pump Issues:

  • If the pump is beeping or has an error code displayed, the amalgam pot may be full
  • If the pump is running but you are getting weak or low suction, the filters may need cleaning on the pump and the chair
  • If you have weak or no suction, then the pipework may be blocked or frozen in cold weather
  • If the pump is not running, then the fuse may have blown
  • The pump may be overheating from long treatments or poor ventilation around the pump
  • If the suction impellor becomes seized, this is normally caused by incorrect cleaning chemicals or a poor maintenance routine

Air Compressor Issues:

  • The drain valve was left open by the user draining the air receiver at the end of the previous day
  • The valve on the airline might be turned off
  • Overheating from poor ventilation or hot weather
  • Overworked and overheating due to supplying more surgeries than it is designed for
  • Leaks in the pipework
  • The fuse may have blown
  • The power may be turned off

Air Compressor Advice:

  • The pressure gauge should show between 6 and 8 bar to show it is working correctly
  • Reset button – this is normally a black button and can simply be reset by pressing it
  • Sometimes you must have the power on the chairs to get air through to the handpieces
  • Make sure that the space is well ventilated
  • Only use an air compressor to service its maximum number of chairs

Dental Chair Issues:

  • The fuse may have blown – this is normally next to the switch at the base of the chair
  • The power may be turned off on the isolator switch in the surgery, or the switch on the chair
  • 3:1 syringes giving water in the air is a common issue that is normally caused by worn seals
  • Poor suction – check the filters and the suction pump

Dental Chair Advice:

  • Check that the air supply is on and working in other surgeries. Often this is a metal toggle switch under the delivery unit on the chair to turn the air supply on
  • The pressure gauge on the air compressor should show between 6 and 8 bar to show it is working correctly
  • Ensure that nothing is pressing against the cut-out switches, e.g. a foot pedal left on the base of the chair

Common Equipment Breakdowns and Why They Occur

Quick Response Dental Engineers

As dental equipment engineering experts, we understand the importance of maintaining the electrical, mechanical and pneumatic components of dental equipment.

Our role in assembling, installing, modifying and servicing this equipment is vital to ensuring that patients and professionals alike are safe from faulty equipment.

One of the most critical services we offer is our emergency call-out service. If a piece of equipment fails unexpectedly, we are committed to attending to repair calls as quickly as possible.

However, if you find yourself in urgent need of an engineer, you can take advantage of our emergency service. For more information, visit our article on Emergency Engineers and Call-Outs.

No job is too big or small for our team. We can carry out everything from pressure vessel and air compressor inspections to setting up full practice servicing programs.

Additionally, as part of our role, we conduct Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) on the equipment to ensure that it meets regulatory standards.

We stay current with new developments in the field by studying technical manuals, attending training sessions provided by manufacturers and researching repair part lists.

Furthermore, we make sure to advise your staff on the correct operation and maintenance of your equipment.

Our goal is to maximise operational efficiencies and deliver truly valuable experiences for dentists, staff and patients alike.

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Preventative Maintenance

One of the best ways to ensure the reliability and longevity of your equipment is through annual servicing by our experienced and trained engineers.

Through regular check-ups and preventative maintenance, they can diagnose malfunctions in both existing and newly purchased equipment using manufacturer service kits and specialised test and analysis instruments.

A planned preventative maintenance (PPM) schedule not only helps to prevent equipment failure but also ensures compliance with Care Quality Commission (CQC) guidelines.

For a deeper understanding of the importance of dental equipment servicing, check out our article "Do I Need to Have My Dental Equipment Serviced?".

Training staff on the proper use and maintenance of equipment is equally important.

Our engineers will always offer training and a hand-over session for newly installed equipment and provide free, unlimited technical support with a same-day response if needed.

In addition to annual servicing, it's also important to conduct regular inspections and audits of your equipment. This includes creating a detailed list with notes of any problems, repairs and replacements.

Sharing these audits with our service team can also aid in minimising the chances of breakdowns and increase our ability to respond promptly when needed.

We go beyond maintenance and simply ‘fixing problems’ to ensure each piece of equipment you rely upon is performing at the highest levels, with minimum downtime, to help enable your dental practice success and boost staff and customer satisfaction.

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