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Practice Tips #102: Get a charge out of electricity!

Almost everything requires a power source to function properly. A lot of the dental equipment in your office is powered by electricity, so it’s good to have a basic familiarity with your electrical systems. A few simple tips for electrical equipment:

  1. Keep a supply of fuses on hand. Check your equipment to see if it has a fuse— find out what type of fuse it uses and keep a few spares on hand. They are inexpensive, so having a few spares on hand is cheap insurance against down time. A multi-compartment box makes a great organizer for all of your fuses and will help you find the correct fuse quickly when you need one.
  2. Have spare bulbs available for those items that use them. Just like fuses, a spare bulb or two is an inexpensive defense against unexpected down time.
  3. Know your circuit breaker. Your office should have a circuit breaker controlling the electricity throughout. Make sure yours is well labeled and you know what circuit is for which piece of equipment. Some pieces of equipment (e.g. sterilizers) take a lot of electricity to run, so they should be on a dedicated circuit Be careful about what is on the same circuit as something else. You don’t want a sterilizer down because someone microwaved his or her popcorn (yes, we’ve run into this). Our "Doctor, Did You Check The Breaker, Too?" guide is a helpful tool for learning more about maintaining & troubleshooting dental equipment (see #59-52 and #59-53).
  4. Have the tools available for repairing your equipment. While we don’t recommend you become an electrician, it’s a good idea to purchase a simple multimeter. This device can save you hundreds by allowing you to trouble shoot electrical devices throughout the office. We covered the use of this handy device way back in Practice Tips #25.
  5. Keep yourself safe. Make sure to unplug devices before working on them and don’t be afraid to call in the professionals either. We want to help teach you about the simple things you can do without the expensive technician fees. Sometimes it is good to push your comfort zone, but there is no need to take unnecessary risks. It’s an axiom among electricians to “work with one hand in your pocket.” Be careful about what other objects you touch when working on electricity and avoid water (we once got a call from a professional tech who received a jolt when connecting an operating light, while kneeling in a puddle of water). For your own protection, as well as to protect the equipment you’re working on, it’s usually best to remove any jewelry as well (gold is a particularly good conductor).

Ultimately, working on your dental equipment can have its own set of risks. Having the knowledge to repair it on your own safely can save you the time and headache of having to wait for a technician to fix it for you.

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