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5 Top Considerations When Buying a Dental Chair

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Issue: Volume 1, 2018

Choosing a Dental Chair…is a big decision.

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Buying dental equipment is a serious investment. With so many options available, it’s important to take a close look at reliability, longevity, performance, and other critical factors. Regardless of the brand or manufacturer, there are some key attributes that ensure a dental chair can withstand the daily rigors of dentistry, maximize access to the patient, and provide comfort for both the dental team and the patient.

Here are five key checkpoints to consider when purchasing a new dental chair:

1. How stable is the chair?
Stability requirements will vary, depending on what type of equipment you use. Chair-mounted delivery systems require a much more stable chair than cabinet or wall-mounted systems. Still, a chair must deliver stability as you access the oral cavity.

Here’s a practical test of stability on a chair with a chair-mounted delivery system and light, which is sitting on an even and level floor: with a person in the supine position, run the chair to its maximum height. Grasp the top of the light post and attempt to rock the chair side-to-side. The patient seating area should not rock or sway, but remain basically rigid. The baseplate shouldn’t rock at all. “Tippy” chairs may not be capable of delivering a stable oral cavity.

The chair baseplate is an important factor in stability. It should have a large footprint, yet be configured so it won’t interfere with stool casters. A cast iron baseplate is rigid and provides more strength than aluminum, with a thinner profile. It also transfers less sound and vibration to the patient if it is hit or bumped.

2. Does the baseplate resist dents, scratches, and corrosion?
The chair’s baseplate is constantly under assault from cleaning chemicals and equipment. The finish should not be simply painted, as it will chip or scratch easily. To keep it looking clean and new for years of use, a permanent finish process such as epoxy or electrolytic bonding is ideal. In addition, the baseplate should be finished on all sides, so floor coverings won’t be damaged by rust or corrosion.

The perfect dental chair should maximize access to the patient, and provide comfort for both the dental team and the patient.

3. How does the chair move and feel?
The chair’s movement plays a big role in patient comfort. Sit in the chair, then move it up and down to determine whether there is a jarring movement at the start or stop. The chair should provide a smooth, gentle ride for the patient from start to finish. (Be sure to ask who manufactures the hydraulic cylinders; an important part of the chair.) A well-designed chair will cradle and support the patient’s body for a relaxed experience. Does the toeboard simultaneously lift upon reclining to elevate the legs? Is there a “virtual pivot” that automatically synchronizes chair movement with the natural motion of the body, allowing the patient to achieve the supine position without stretching or repositioning?

4. How easy is it to position the chair?
Proper positioning is important for patient comfort and optimal oral cavity access, so consider every aspect. A headrest that automatically follows the motion of the patient when the chair back is raised or lowered means fewer adjustments for you, and more comfort for the patient. Ideally, you should be able to easily reposition the headrest by activating the adjustment mechanism with your thumb and forefinger. Knob-operated headrests are more difficult to adjust, especially when covered with a plastic barrier protection.

Next, assess the flexibility of the backrest. An ultra-thin (yet sufficiently sturdy) backrest offers more leg room, allowing you to position the oral cavity several inches lower, and closer, to your lap. This position lets you work with forearms parallel to the floor, minimizing arm and shoulder strain. A thin, properly designed backrest also absorbs pressure and supports the patient when entering and exiting the chair. Finally, armrests should be effortless to move out of the way with one hand, allowing direct and unobstructed access to the patient, as well as easy entry and exit from both sides of the chair.

5. Is the chair built to last?
When your equipment isn’t working, you’re not working—unexpected problems and excessive maintenance can mean costly service calls and lost productivity. Whenever possible, select products that need the least amount of maintenance and service. A chair designed with fewer moving parts is a smart choice, because it lowers the risk of failure, simplifies maintenance, and results in fewer service calls.

CHECKLIST FOR “TEST DRIVING” A NEW DENTAL CHAIR

Try these tests the next time you’re in a dealer showroom or at a dental tradeshow:

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Touch each piece of equipment to get a feel for how well it’s made.
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Check that all parts fit well together.
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Move the armrest. Adjust the headrest.
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Sit down beside and behind the chair. Is it easy to position yourself close to the chair in each working position?
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Recline in the chair to determine the comfort.
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Check the motion. Is it bumpy or smooth?
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Does the swivel mechanism rotate easily?
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How easy is it to pre-program (and override) operating positions?
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Check the total height range on the chair. Will it accommodate your entire team?
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Ask about the chair’s tested lifting capacity.
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Test the functionality of the delivery system, chair, and all components.
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Just as you would before buying a car, it’s important to thoroughly “test drive” any dental chair you’re seriously considering for your practice.

Does the chair you’re considering have a reputation for quality? Is it backed with a solid warranty? Choose a manufacturer with a history of creating products that are durable, reliable, easy to maintain, and that will support you with service and parts for years after your purchase.

Choose with confidence.
Of course, there are additional factors to consider before you buy. For more pointers about dental chairs and other equipment, get your complimentary guide, “What to Look for When Buying Dental Equipment” at a-dec.com/guide. By knowing what to look for, you can choose with confidence—and make sure you end up with the right dental equipment for your practice.