Several decades ago, the selection of the dental chair was a deceptively simple exercise; predicated upon choosing the right color for the operatory at the right price. In contrast, today’s practitioner is well aware that the correct dental chair, its options, and its built-in technologies can influence not only the comfort and the ergonomics of the operatory, but the efficiency and profitability of the entire dental office.
The practitioner and/or the office designer spend a great deal of time developing the practice environment; the dental chair must serve the physical needs, and complement the clinical requirements of the dentist and the staff members. In most situations, a test-run under actual operating conditions for a new dental chair is not practical. Therefore, it is important for the dentist to do extensive homework prior to making the purchase decision. There are many sources that offer descriptive and comparative data, and these analyses can be very useful in the selection process. Perhaps the most important, and most overlooked, is the practitioner’s own experience. It is helpful to take note of what is good and practical about the currently used dental chair, and to develop a wish list. By merging this information, the parameters of the ideal dental chair begin to emerge. Test-drives of the short-listed contender chairs at a conference or a showroom will assist in fine-tuning the ultimate decision.
The first task is to evaluate the latest chair equipment available, and then to extrapolate these to the technology needs for the next decade (a reasonable minimum service life for the dental chair). Dental chair technologies are in a state of rapid flux; continued research and development simplify treatment and make its delivery easier. In selecting a dental chair, it makes sense to implement every practical technology of today in order to stave off its inevitable obsolescence as long as possible.
Increasingly, dental chairs offer future-oriented platforms that permit after-purchase additions. Given that dental chair engineering is evolving rapidly, allowing for future advances is very sensible.
The dental chair’s contribution to the practice image is significant; it is the most visible item in the operatory. For a patient meeting the dentist for the first time, the dental equipment is the background to a new, and perhaps complex, relationship; up-to-date chair technology and appearance is likely to impact positively on patients, inspiring confidence in their choice of dentist, and perhaps making their commitment to treatment plans more justifiable.
Last, but not least, the dental chair is the workbench where the dentist and assistant spend eight or more hours per day. The dental chair must readily adapt to the practitioner both ergonomically and functionally. Even a slightly annoying functional nuisance can have a serious impact on work quality, productivity, posture, and practitioner health. A long-term ergonomic issue (particularly one that is repetitive) affects not only practice success, but also the duration of the dentist’s career.
In selecting a dental chair, learn all the options; determine which ones are needed, and choose the most suitable. It is one of the most critical purchases that you will make.DPM
Dr. George Freedman is a founder and past president of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, a co-founder of the Canadian Academy for Esthetic Dentistry and a Diplomate of the American Board of Aesthetic Dentistry. Dr. Freedman sits on the Oral Health Editorial Board (Dental Materials and Technology) is a Team Member of REALITY and lectures internationally on dental esthetics and dental technology. A graduate of McGill University in Montreal, Dr. Freedman maintains a private practice limited to esthetic dentistry in Markham, Canada.