Practice Tip #109: Getting in Hot Water

Going to the dentist is not everyone's favorite type of activity, so making your patients comfortable during a routine visit is important. Many patients have teeth that are sensitive to extreme temperatures. One way you can help is by providing warm water to reduce patient discomfort. The primary source of water is the air/water syringe and there are two different ways of warming the water to this device – you can warm the water in a reservoir or you can heat the syringe tubing.

Water warmers are simply a reservoir that warms the water within it. They are just like most household water heaters. They warm water and store it for use when you need it. Just like what you have at home, these devices are remotely located, so you still have water lines between them and the point of use. These lines will have standing water, which will be cold. You need to run the water for a little bit to flush the cold water out before you start to get warm water. However, the 6 oz. capacity of the reservoir allows for a high volume of water, so you will have warm water for a long time once the cold water has been flushed. The reservoir can be put on the main water line, so it can feed to as many different devices as you wish (like having more than one syringe in the operatory or if you want to warm the water to the ultrasonic scaler). Generally, water in a scaler is used as a coolant, so this shouldn’t be necessary, but we have heard of it for periodontal patients.

The other option is to purchase a system that incorporates special syringe tubing with a heating coil inside. With heated syringe tubing, you replace the tubing that connects directly to the air/water syringe. This means you have “instant” warm water as the water is warmed immediately prior to entering the syringe. Of course, only the water in the tubing is warmed, so you don’t have the high volume as provided by a reservoir; although it’s still enough volume for a quick rinse or two. As the heating coil is within the syringe tubing, you can’t provide warm water to more than one device if you use this system.

Heated tubing is available with two different systems: deluxe or standard. Deluxe systems include a power box with a thermostat (hi/low settings) and the heating coil connects with a simple plug. The box needs to be supplied with an air line, as it incorporates an air switch for on/off activation. This deluxe system will come on when the delivery system is turned on. A standard heated syringe system is hard wired to a transformer and uses an air activated electric switch to turn the heating coil in the tubing on so it will also come on when the delivery system is turned on. It does not have any temperature settings.

When deciding on a way to warm your water supply remember that with a reservoir system, you have a greater volume for prolonged use. You can feed hot water to as many and whatever devices you wish, but you will have to flush for a bit before you actually get warm water. With heated syringe tubing, you have instant warm water, but only to the syringe and only to one syringe.