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Practice Tips #2: Recommended Tools For Repairing & Maintaining Dental Equipment

A well-stocked toolbox is essential to getting any job done. A time honored phrase is “the right tool for the job.” Equipment repair and maintenance is much like dentistry in that it is greatly simplified by having the correct tools.

  • A claw hammer (about 12-16 oz.): a little tap with a hammer can often loosen stuck fittings. Also, it is useful for pounding various retaining pins in (or out) and prying stuck pieces apart etc.
  • A good set of screw drivers: at a minimum a #0, a #1, and a #2 Phillips head and both a thick and a thin bladed slotted screw driver. You'll want a thin blade about 1/4” wide and a thick 3/8” wide.
  • An adjustable (crescent) wrench: 6”-8” should be large enough for any nuts and bolts on your equipment.
  • A small 1/4” open-end wrench: most barb fittings in a dental unit have a 1/4” hex base, so this wrench will be indispensable for reaching into tight spots in your units.
  • Hex (allen) wrenches: a set of both standard (inch) and metric. Be sure to get them with cases or in the folding kits, so you don’t mix them up.
  • A slip-joint pliers: they can be adjusted to grip various sized items comfortably.
  • A locking pliers (Vice Grip™): this will grab things and not let go. This is also useful as a clamp and pliers.
  • A sleeve tool: this is for sliding the small plastic collars (“sleeves”) over the barbed fittings in your unit to hold dental tubing in place.
  • Dental instruments: a scaler, an explorer, a double-ended burnisher (27/29 ball end is nice), and an extraction forceps. These are great for removing and seating o-rings, cleaning up threads, and minute cleaning, among other things. The extraction forceps are one of the best tools for removing sleeve clamps.
  • Tape: Duct tape, masking tape, electrical tape, teflon (plumber’s) tape, and color-coded i.d. tape are all useful for securing, sealing, and marking things.
  • A diagonal cutter: great for cutting small supply tubing, as well as wires, cable ties, etc.
  • A selection of abrasive pads: Scotch brite pads and some steel wool will be helpful in many tasks. Often a little cleaning is all something needs to restore proper function.
  • A good measuring tape: (16' or longer) with standard (inch) markings. The old adage holds true: "measure twice, cut once."
  • Needle-nose pliers: you'll frequently be required to reach into tight spaces.
  • Silicone o-ring lube: a lot of problems can be solved with the simple application of a little lubricant. Avoid petroleum-based lubricants, as these tend to damage o-rings over time and can even dry them out.
  • Stethoscope: good for pinpointing odd noises from equipment.
  • Flashlight: you'll often need to see in and under things away from direct illumination.
  • A toolbox: just as important as your tools, this is a place to keep them, so you know where they are and can keep them organized. A box with compartments, trays, etc. works too. A tackle box can also work well and can provide you with plenty of compartments to store various fittings, which you will eventually collect.

These are the basic tools you’ll need, but don’t feel limited by it. There are lots of other tools that can come in handy around the office. Feel free to expand on it depending on your needs and comfort level. For example, a multimeter is very helpful for diagnosing various electrical problems, but not everyone is comfortable using one.

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