We have found that most patients are unaware of the level of time and investment that has gone into the tools their dentist use on them. This is indeed an issue. Dental practices alike should not advertise themselves as state-of-the-art when they are using battered old instruments or very old handpieces. It is sometimes the case that a practice may be clean and look pleasing to the eye but when it comes to the equipment that is used they are antequated.
So I thought I will point out some assessments you, as a patient, can make for yourselves next time you are at your dentist.
I hope you agree, that the better your dentist is able to see what he or she is treating in your mouth, the better the results are likely to be. The following are some factors that can hugely improve your dentists vision and accuracy:
1. The dental light.
The light that looms above you during treatment is one of the largest factors influencing what the dentist can see. The best lights are mutipointed (many different bulbs on one light unit) and use white LEDs. These type of lights offer many advantages to the clinician. They create no shadowing, are daylight corrected for better colour matching and create less eye strain and fatigue for the dentist.
2. Fibre-optic handpieces
The handpieces the dentist used to drill and clean your teeth sometimes have lights at the tips. Although very expensive to buy, they illuminate the operating area more effectively. Look at the tip of the handpieces to see if they have a flush lightrod tip or indeed ask your dentist about fibre-optic handpieces. Handpieces are precision instruments. some of the top brands in dentistry include Kavo and Bienair. These top end hanpieces create less noise and vibration.
As discussed on one of my previous blogs, magnification is becoming a normal part of restorative, endodontic and many other aspects of dentistry. Easily identified as ‘funny looking glasses’ with magnification lupes lenses on them that your dentist might wear during treatment and diagnosis. Dental microscopes are also another great form of magnification
Always held at the top level of any health related establishment, this can be hard to assess as a patient. But lets point out some obvious elements you can identify:
1. Are gloves being worn routinely by the dental team while treating you ? No other equipment in the room, other than the instruments used to treat you, should be touched by the clinician during your time there (unless they remove or change their gloves first and again after). For example a keyboard or mouse should not be handled after touching you or vice versa.
2. All instruments including handpieces should be sterilised and packaged in clear dated plastic pouches and opened to treat you only. This is hard to spot as the surgery might be setup just prior to you entering the room. At least note that unpouched handpieces are not being taken straight out of a drawer and used.
3. CQC Certifcation
There are so many aspects to cross infection it might be just easier to check that your dental practice is registered with and compliant with the ‘Care Quality Commission’s’ guidelines online. To do this simply Google ‘CQC’ and the name of your dental practice. If a dental practice is not listed and compliant with CQC standards they cannot legally operate in the UK.
Digital radiography refers to a specific kind of x-ray processing. If your dentist has digital x-ray technology, he/she is able to take a x-ray, display it on a tv screen or computer monitor and explain the diagnosis of his/her treatment plan. The radiation doses used in these type of x-rays are considerably lower and the images obtained are far more detailed. The processing speed is very quick (seconds in most cases). Digital radiography has been available for well over 20 years.
Your dental practice has to have had the following checks performed regularly and have the documentation to prove that they are all up to date.
GDC registration (this is a licence to practice for all health professionals – dentists, hygiene therapists and nurses. Without this compulsory licence, practice within the UK would not be possible)
Legionella risk assessment (for the water used in any devises used to treat you)
CQC compliance certification (outlined above)
Data Protection Certification (to comply with how dental practices use and protect data relating to you as a patient)
Service and maintenance contracts for dental equipment, especially X-ray machines)
Continuing Professional Development for all clinical staff including the Dentist
CPR and medical emergency training by the whole clinical team
Defibrillator training certification (presence of a defibrillator is always a good thing at your practice)
Complaints procedure (displayed in waiting room)
Decontamination carried out according to HTM 01-05
It is good to remember that in dentistry, more than any other health sector, technology is always evolving. It is a positive sign to see your dental practice invest in relevant new equipment. One day it may become an essential part of our occupation to constantly move forward. But for now it is a decision for you to make, as the consumer, on how important you feel this is in the delivery of your dental care.