Practice Tips #113: Topless Diagnosis

Humans are visual creatures and rely on sight in many ways. It’s often been said in dentistry that one can’t diagnose what one cannot see, that’s why x-rays are often part of a comprehensive dental exam.

By the same token, when diagnosing equipment problems, it often helps to see what is going on, so take your top off. Your equipment covers don’t generally serve any vital function; they just keep things hidden and looking good. In most cases, removing the top will not impede, nor prevent function.

If working on a sterilizer, after removing the cover, you can still operate the sterilizer (exception – most Statim sterilizers can only be easily operated while open, if using our Statim Service Kit). If you’re having problems with water coming out under the sterilizer, if your sterilizer isn’t holding pressure, if your sterilizer is failing to get to temperature, or if you get a “low water” warning, you may have a steam leak somewhere in the sterilizer. By running a cycle with the cover off of your sterilizer, you should be able to see where the steam is leaking, so you’ll know how best to address the problem.

Photo: (Inside a Tuttnauer Sterilizer) The lid is removed from the reservoir, so you can see the safety valve. The insulation is still in place around the chamber. It’s generally a good idea to remove any insulation like this, as many valves or connections may still be hidden.

Once the cover is off, you will be able to see all of the internal components and lines. You’ll be able to see any loose connections, worn fittings, or other plumbing problems (see replacements parts here). You may often be able to see signs of electrical problems, as well (loose or frayed wires, scorched connections, or other visual signs of trouble). Once you see the problem, the solution is often self-evident.

By the same token, if you are having a problem with your delivery system, such as water leaking out the bottom, take the top off. Look inside the delivery system. Once again, loose fittings, leaking hoses, or many other sources of trouble will often be obvious, once you can see everything. With the top off, run your handpieces and use the unit as you would in an attempt to duplicate the problem. Once something is running and you’re looking “under the hood,” you may clearly see what is going wrong.

Photo: “Under the Hood” of a Dentech delivery system.

It’s often much easier to find the source of the problem if you can see what’s going on. When you’re not sure what’s going wrong, just take your top off.