A dental surgery is fitted out with essential and complex equipment, if one of these machine commodities fails or breaks down completely, the surgery may be forced to close. The dentist or practice manager will then have to contact an engineer to fix the dental equipment. This can sometimes take more time than expected, costing the practice money and possibly reducing customer satisfaction. Ideally, the dental equipment engineer should be aware of the importance of a speedy response and in a best-case scenario arrive at the practice with a new machine on-board their van; in the event that the machine in question is un-repairable. If the repairs cannot be completed at the surgery, it can be taken back to the workshop and the new machine can be left as a loan unit.
Dr Tim Earl had this problem with his Trophy X-ray machine. After a week of waiting for his usual dental supplier to arrive to do the repairs, he contacted our service department. Our engineer arrived with a brand-new machine, although this was not needed as the problem was found immediately and fixed in 20 minutes. Dr Earl was prepared to pay for the new machine if he needed to, but we will always endeavour to repair a machine if we can. See the Case Study for the testimonial.
To Fix or Not to Fix?
On some occasions the repairs can be costly, so with an older machine the decision has to be made whether to keep it going for a while longer or replace it with a more updated piece of equipment. This option can be more efficient, could potentially save money in the long-term, give a better patient experience and even make the dentist or assistant’s job considerably easier.
Before deciding whether to repair or replace, check the equipment’s age, any issues (previous repairs and ongoing problems), warranty and usage. An estimate of lost revenue from equipment downtime can be offset from this and although both options can be expensive, so too is spending out on repeated repairs. If replacement is the best option, then see our article on Using technology to help improve the patient experience to see the benefits on making the most out of this opportunity.
There is an alternative to both of these options, and that is to rent your equipment. Consequently, all maintenance and equipment services are covered, giving you peace of mind and much less to worry about. Contact our team on 01322 421156 to discuss our rental service and the equipment available.
Before taking the temptation of purchasing a used or reconditioned machine, consider its age and how much usage it has endured. If a product is older than 10 years it may not be worth the savings. It is a big risk in guessing how many years you will get out of it. Air compressors and suction pumps would be the most likely to be affected from wear and tear. We do supply used equipment which we have part exchanged for a newer model. These are reconditioned by our expert engineers using manufacturer parts and we also have ex-showroom chairs, which have had no surgical usage. See our Used Equipment listings here and our Heka Dental chair clearance promotion.
Dental Equipment Engineers
Preventative annual servicing is by far the most reliable way of ensuring you extend the life of your equipment. Certification and service reports will also satisfy any CQC compliance as they will look for evidence that manufacturers guidelines are being followed. This topic is covered in more detail in our article – “Do I need to have my dental equipment serviced?” It is also very important to train staff on how to properly use and maintain equipment. Our engineers will always offer staff training and a hand-over session on newly installed equipment. We offer free, unlimited technical support and same day response if needed.
To find out more about the importance of having a trusted engineer on call, see our article – The Ultimate Guide to Dental Engineering.
Conduct a thorough audit of your equipment at least once per year. You should have a detailed list filed away with notes on any problems, repairs and replacements. Any downtime should also be logged, and feedback obtained from all members of staff. If you arrange a rating system for each unit, this can help prioritise which item might need replacing first, and also act as an early warning. Keeping on top of the signs of wear and tear can help you budget for a replacement.
Sharing your audits with our Service team is also a suggested best practice, as we can log all the equipment with photos on our system so that if you call with a breakdown we know exactly what the equipment is and are more likely to be able visit with the correct parts. We can also make recommendations for repairs or replacements to minimise the chances of breakdowns.
The Strategy of Preparedness
All of your equipment will need maintenance and servicing and can generally last 10-15 years if manufacturers guidelines are followed. We recommend a service schedule to be arranged for the engineer to contact you when each machine is due an inspection. This will ensure that your machinery remains compliant and in safe working order. So, to keep prepared for potential equipment failure we suggest that annual servicing, staff training, inspections and audits will make a great strategy to get the most out of your equipment for the maximum amount of time.
Our service team have found that suction pumps are the most common piece of equipment to fail and most prone to wear & tear, with reports of the suction pump not working. And that the most obvious signs of failure are weak suction and abnormal noises. Suction pumps with Amalgam separators are complex and will fail if not serviced annually. Air compressors and suction pumps can get hot and overheat if malfunctioning. If this is noticed, it is best to turn it off and not use it otherwise more damage can be caused. Also overheating can be caused by equipment being in an area where ventilation is underutilised and especially in hot weather. Dentists can fit vents/louvers/thermostatically controlled extractor fans to prevent this issue.
You should have an easily accessible “First Aid kit” for your equipment. This can include a 3:1 syringe repair kit, spare suction hoses, turbines, bur tools, cleaning fluids, filters and valves, light bulbs, handpiece lube and any other small spare parts like gaskets and O-Rings. You should also keep a file with manuals, invoices and certification together. A back up air compressor is also recommended so that this can be switched over if there is a breakdown.
Taking notes of unusual behaviour, list exactly what happened, when issues arose and how frequently they occur can greatly assist in a diagnosis and will help the engineer reduce your equipment downtime. And above all, don’t be afraid to ask if you are not sure.
These are some of the most frequently asked questions our in-house engineers get asked, hopefully these answers will assist you.
Q: Is there a cut-off point of the amount of repairs a machine can under-go, before a replacement should be considered?
A: No, it all depends on the quality of the equipment, the use it has had, and the nature of the repairs required. We will recommend considering a replacement if we feel it would be more economical for the dentist.
Q: What tips would you usually give dental practices on equipment maintenance?
A: Ensure they use the cleaner recommended by the manufacturer. Have a protocol for regular cleaning of the filters and checking the machines for abnormal noises or heat. Switch the power off at night time.
Q: Are there any suggestions for a dentist before they call-out an engineer?
A: Check fuses where applicable, double check all switches and valves are turned on. See if other surgeries are experiencing the same issue. Find out if the suction pump or air compressor is running, take photos and ideally email all information to firstname.lastname@example.org with details about how urgent it is and available times when the engineer can visit. Also make notes of any issues as they arise.
Q: How soon can you visit!!
A: We always endeavour to attend to repair calls as soon as possible, but if you need an engineer urgently or the same day, you can choose our emergency call-out service. For a small additional fee, we will prioritise your emergency and ensure it is swiftly attended to with minimal down-time.
Q: What do you do in a service?
A: Read our article – The Ultimate Guide to Dental Engineering. This covers the role of the dental engineer and lists the areas that will be covered in a service for each piece of equipment.
New Dental Equipment
If you have come across this article because you are deciding whether to repair or replace, give our service department a call on 01322 421156 or complete this Request Form and we will offer unbiased advice to suit any budget or requirements. We are also an independent equipment supplier and have a wide-range available to reflect your treatment specialities. See our Equipment section and list by category, manufacturer and even keyword.
We are strategically located in Dartford, Kent with its excellent road connections to London and the Home Counties via the M25, M20, M2 and A2. We are also only 15 miles from the City of London enabling us to service a wide area with speed and efficiency.
The main areas we cover:
Dental Engineering London, Kent, Essex, Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Berkshire, Bedfordshire, Middlesex, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Suffolk.
We do cover the rest of the UK, please enquire with our service team.