Sheri's Solutions: The 'new' piece of equipment

2013 08 14 15 37 19 36 Doniger Sheri 2013 200

"What do you do when you don't have an instruction manual?"

After 25 years, I decided I wanted/needed a new side delivery unit. When we began our practice, there were no unit-held air polishers, intraoral cameras, or digital caries detectors, so three handpiece cradles were sufficient. Over the years, we have installed handpieces that have a permanent connection, therefore "losing" two of the available cradles for something else and leaving only one open slot.

Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.
Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.

Now, with our ever-expanding technology, we needed to increase our delivery unit capability from three to four cradles. Since our operatory was built with a very specific space for this side delivery unit, it took some research to be able to acquire a new one that would fit in the space without completely changing the construction or layout of the room.

Our unit was long out of manufacture, and the parts were shipped from overseas, taking three-plus weeks for delivery. I had been advised by several repair folks that the only way to expand my unit would be to order a new one. So, the decision was finally made after dealing with the logistics of my current system for way too long. Upon discussing this with my independent equipment repairman, he found a unit that would not only fit but be a little smaller than the one we currently had.

Jeff installed the unit on a day that I was out of my office at a meeting. My assistant watched as each handpiece and air polisher was tested. Yes, we had the appropriate handpieces with light, the air polisher worked better than ever, and the water seemed to be flowing perfectly, albeit a little heavily. He demonstrated to her the knobs and master switches. After the installation, he left.

I arrived at the office early to try out my new delivery system. I, too, used several handpieces to ensure functionality and assess water flow. All seemed to be in great function. We were ready to start the new day, excited with our new piece of equipment.

“I arrived at the office early to try out my new delivery system. ... We were ready to start the new day, excited with our new piece of equipment.”

My assistant seated our patient. I completed the health history check, the vitals, and the intraoral examination. We were now ready to rock and roll with his preventive visit. And, we had no idea how to turn on the suction. My last unit, it was on the left side. The only thing on the left side of this unit was the master and purge switch. On the right, the water control knobs and the tension. No switch. Also, no instruction manual. First thing I asked my assistant was, "Did he show you how to turn on the suction?"

She said it was all working fine before he left but didn't show her. Then, I asked, "Where is the instruction manual?" No manual in sight. My patient, an emergency medical technician (EMT) specialist training to be a firefighter, was enjoying the relaxation in our chair so it didn't bother him. We said to sit tight and we would find out how to turn on the suction (after all, it HAD to work) and would get right back to him.

My assistant was already on the phone with the service company, asking them to contact us. She said she left a message and hopefully they would get it soon, as minutes were ticking on our patient's appointment time. Thank goodness for modern technology (as spoken from a "mature" clinician). I sent a text to my repair person.

Within minutes, he responded for us to find a very small switch, under the unit, fairly hidden by the handpiece cradles. Of course, it worked. We were slightly embarrassed but, in reality, I would rather know the right way to work with a new piece of equipment than start out wrong. We all laughed. Back to business.

This young man's mother was my first patient today and even she mentioned the switch issue. It was funny and a small lesson learned. Always ask for instructions for all the equipment you are using, even if you think you know how it works. It could only happen on a Monday morning. But this was a Thursday. So, I guess it can happen any day.

Sheri B. Doniger, DDS, practices clinical dentistry in Lincolnwood, IL. She is currently vice president and president-elect of the American Association of Women Dentists and editor of the American Association of Women Dentists "Chronicle" newsletter. She has served as an educator in several dental and dental hygiene programs, has been a consultant for a major dental benefits company, and has written for several dental publications. You can reach her at [email protected].

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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