In a busy dental practice, it’s safe to say that there are hundreds of instruments being processed each day. Some of these setups are used twice a day, while others only twice a month. When it comes to treating patients, you wouldn’t be able to do any of it without your dental instruments being prepped and ready to perform reliably and without fail. Through proper management, you can get the most out of the tools you have on hand.

Sharpening, Re-tipping, and Replacing

Hygiene setups that include scalers and curettes need to be sharpened on a fairly regular basis in order to keep the working ends functional. As the toe of the instrument begins to wear out or wear down (or accidentally breaks, due to dropping it or mishandling) it should be retired. Many instrument manufacturers allow practices to trade in their old scalers or have them re-tipped. Continuing to use dull or worn-down scalers is not only inefficient, it leads to work related injuries in the dental practitioner.

Regular Inspections

Each month, check every instrument for signs of cracking, broken or bent tips, faulty mechanisms, or other signs that they need to be taken out of the office rotation. Keeping them packaged with other instruments will just result in the entire set going unused!

Storing and Organization

Depending on the storage space you have on hand, it’s usually best to keep instruments separated into different drawers or shelves, based on their use. Piling them all in one tub or one large drawer makes it difficult to identify what you need, and can even lead to injury if an instrument pokes through a pouch.

Using cassettes makes it easy to stack and identify specific setups and maximize storage space, so that things don’t get lost or mixed up where they ought not be. Cassettes are also better on the instruments, as they help prevent them from being banged up or broken if they’re accidentally knocked into other things.

Tips for Busy Practices

Keep Maintenance Logs: Instruments with moveable parts, such as handpieces, need to be maintained according to manufacturer recommendations. When a piece needs to be serviced or repaired, be sure to document it in a log. Repeat repairs can also inform the staff of when the instrument should be replaced entirely.

Colour Coding: Having instruments colour-coded can make it easier to keep up with maintenance and tray setup. Not only do coloured bands or other aids make it easier to know which instrument is which, it also makes it more efficient to identify the proper tools for the procedure at hand, especially if the office has multiple practitioners. Some practitioners have a preference toward specific setups, so a colour system makes it easier to set those aside for scheduled procedures.

Have a Written Instrument Protocol: Keep your instrument processing, sterilization, and storage methods consistent throughout your practice. A written guide that’s posted in your sterilization room will help staff maintain a consistency when processing instruments, especially when newer staff are hired.

With great management, maintenance, and storage practices, you can get the most out of your instruments for months or even years to come.