How to Pick the Perfect Dental Air Compressor
Modern Air Compressors for Modern Dentistry
It's difficult to earn a patient's trust. After years of investing in your practice, education, and staff, losing patients to outdated or failing equipment is simply too high of a price to pay.
We know that time is MONEY and we also know that people have a fear of the dentist. So, why subject yourself and your patients to prolonged procedures waiting for your air compressor to fill back up?
When looking to upgrade or replace a dental compressor, dentists demand clean, quiet, and reliable air. In this article, we will highlight the importance of key features you should look for in a dental air compressor for your practice.
The single most important attribute to any dental air compressor is the purity of the air passing from equipment to tool and eventually, into the patient's mouth. Dirty, moist air picked up from even the most seemingly sterile environment, can breed dangerous microorganisms, bacteria, and pathogens.
Moisture and contamination can also negatively interact with compounds used in restorations and lead to premature breakdown. This will result in increased repair work that will, and like dental carries, rot away profits if left untreated.
Investing in a quality compressor with the proper dryers, and filters, will not only help keep your patients safe but will protect your practice from causing illnesses and damage to costly equipment.
Pneumatic Dental Tools
Pristine air isn't just safer for your patients but keeps sanitized tools working as they should and for longer.
Medical supplies are very costly, and dental tools are no exception. Air-driven tools, although less expensive than electronic types, also tend to be delicate. Their internal impellers, couplings, and bearings are susceptible to corrosion and contamination that can take them out of circulation, resulting in lost profits and the ability to grow your practice.
Commonly used tools and handpieces that are most in jeopardy of damage from dirty, wet air include:
- 3/1 syringes
- Delivery units
- Chair valves
It can be downright frustrating when you’re stuck using a worn or low-quality air compressor that produces both dirty air and lower pressure than needed. Your tools won't work as they should and the frequency that you replace them also increases. Just like great artists, the tools a dentist uses are an extension of themselves. Be sure your work represents your true skills.
To assure your compressor conforms to applicable health codes, you will need to have a basic understanding of air quality classes as set by governing bodies such as The International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
The ISO standards below give air quality ratings discharged from air compressors for solid particles, for water, and for oil. To entirely ‘belong’ to a class, all requirements must be met (solids, oil and vapor, and water).
Air Quality Standards
How pure do you consider your air?
The best way to know what level of contaminants are allowed for your specific application is to discuss the air quality industry standards listed below with your installer.
Lower class ratings indicate purer, stricter measurements of air quality.
Particulate matter in the form of dust (solids) is measured in microns (µm) per cubic meter, while aerosols and chemicals suspended in the air (oil & vapor) are measured in milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3).
For size comparison, a human red blood cell is about 5 microns wide while infectious viruses range from 0.004 to 0.1 microns in thickness. That means a Class 1 compressor wouldn't allow any particles the size of a red blood cell!
The tolerable dryness for each class of air, or how much water is suspended in the compressed air, is calculated by the temperature it would take to transform water vapor into liquid water (dew point).
Any compressed system that requires air or oil filters to achieve a particular quality class is susceptible to failure and needs constant maintenance to avoid liability risks.
Class 0 Compressed Air
Class Zero air quality is the cleanest, most pure of all of the class ratings. Contaminants are rated by the manufacturer and set by the application for which it is being used.
A rating of 0, which can be achieved with a scroll air compressor, is an ideal choice among dental professionals and dental labs because they offer the strictest standards and are oil-free by design.
Class 1 Compressed Air
Air compressors capable of producing Class 1 air may also make an acceptable dental compressor, make sure to look for "Oil-Free" designs. Be careful with compressors that use oil-lubricated pumps and an internal filter to remove the oil.
Always consult with state and local codes with an installer who is certified for dental practices and understands any specific rules that may apply to your business, size, location, and services offered.
Oil vs. Oil-Free
Often dentists shopping for a new compressor face a dilemma of which is better, an oiled or oil-less compressor?
On the one hand, oil-lubricated air compressors were once believed to be quieter and to last longer than oil-free models, making them seem like a top choice for a dental office, but that isn't the case today.
The oil-less models today outperform their oiled counterparts. For dentists that don't want the hassle and worry that comes with consistently checking and changing the filters, an oil-less design is a better choice.
One of the main reasons why a dentist will choose an oil-free compressor is that they pose a lower risk of contaminating the air with lubricant. Instead of injecting oil into the pump, scroll compressors are oil-free by design while piston compressors use a special friction-reducing coating, like Teflon®, to produce clean air without sacrificing performance.
Oil-free units are also lightweight, so they can be placed in a wider range of areas, while still creating as much airflow and pressure as many oil-lubricated models.
Just like your car, air compressors each have a motor that produces a certain amount of power. Instead of moving a vehicle, the compressor's motor overcomes friction and the resistance of condensing the air in the pump. The more horsepower, the faster and more air it can compress.
A small dental office with one or two seats can get by with a 2HP machine, while larger offices or labs will require at least a 5HP.
Precision is essential in dentistry, but for tools to be precise, they need to create enough speed and torque.
The right amount of pressure makes it possible. Commonly, these pressure requirements are listed in BAR. Many dental handpieces will post a 5 BAR (72.5 PSI) requirement. 1 BAR is roughly equivalent to 14.5 PSI.
To account for pressure drops, multiple stations, and long piping runs, you'll want to go higher. Air with too little pressure can ruin tools, interrupt procedures, and possibly hurt your patient, and your reputation.
Air capacity, like your lungs, refers to how much air volume your compressor can produce and hold at a given time which is measured in CFM (cubic feet per minute). Also referred to as a duty cycle, the capacity of your compressor's tank will determine how often the pump needs to turn on to fill it back up.
Just like air pressure, you will want a compressor that produces more volume than the combined minimum requirement of your tools.
Handpieces may assume a 25% duty cycle, but if you use them more often, or are performing complex surgeries, you'll want to increase the CFM requirement. You'll also need to add up how many chairs you have in your office and multiply that number by the maximum CFM rating required. A practice with more than 4 chairs and dental labs should have at least a 60-gallon air tank.
Building a Trusted Dental Practice
You know how hard it can be to grow your business by earning trust, one patient at-a-time. So, even the most seemingly innocuous of dental devices, an air compressor, can be a reason to send them looking for a new dentist; don't let that happen to you.
To get the most out of your investment, always insist on a reputable, trusted brand of dental air compressors along with a certified installer that understands your unique needs.
As with most practices, space is at a premium and compressors can sometimes get regulated to storage or mechanical rooms where the possibility of contamination increases.
Be sure to speak with your installer to make sure this does not happen. You also want to be sure the compressor isn't right next to your vacuum pump as the exhaust can be a possibility for contamination.
Compressors need a consistent supply of unpolluted air, so installation will need to be in a space that’s properly ventilated.
Buy With Confidence
When it comes to building a reputable practice, you need to rely on your tools to get the job done right. Your patients are counting on you to deliver results, and the last thing you want is to worry about mechanical issues.
If you need help selecting the right air compressors to fit the needs of your practice, please contact us. Our team of compressor experts is here to help you. We work with our manufacturers to bring you the widest selection of reputable brands and services.
For informational purposes only. Not for medical use, must be installed by a certified professional installer. Not responsible for inaccuracies.