Main Features of a Typical Dental Surgery

The following are the main features of a typical dental surgery.


The chair

The modern dental chair is a work of science fiction art, in which the patient reclines rather than sits. While designs vary all modern dental chairs move horizon­tally and vertically at the merest touch of a button. This allows the dentist to sit while working, and provides a good view of, and access to, the mouth. It also prevents a patient having a fainting fit.


The light

Dental lights used to look as though they had been borrowed from the Eddystone Lighthouse. Today’s are smaller, with cool light focused where it is needed, not scattered around the surgery. The light can be free-hanging or it may be an integral part of the working console.


The working controls

The working controls are also called the module or console. The design of the module varies more than anything else in the dental surgery. Some are fixed entirely, some are part fixed and part mobile and others are almost entirely mobile or retractable. Part of the console is patient-oriented; most is dentist-friendly. The part you will use is the spittoon or funnel and the mouthwash cup; this may refill itself automatically. The dentist’s part is always free-moving. It provides a working surface on which instruments and materials are placed, and a module in which the mechanical instruments (drills, air and water jets) are sited. Here they are described in more detail:


– Drills/handpieces. The visible part of a dentist’s drill is now a metal handpiece. This is usually a complex air-turbine that holds the drill. It is driven by an air-compressor. Cutting is done by drills (burrs). These are generally made of stainless steel or industrial diamond. There are different burrs for different dental jobs. The handpiece can also hold tooth-polishing equipment, and a variety of other specialist cutters and drills. It also may be equipped with a fibre-optic light. The handpiece runs at variable speeds, up to very high speeds, and so the tooth on which it is working has to be cooled by a constant jet of water running from the handpiece itself. There will also be a slower running handpiece, possibly powered by a microelectric motor.

– Saliva ejector. As it is not always possible to swallow easily, to avoid flooding in the mouth from the jet of water the dentist generally asks you to hold a question-mark-shaped gadget in your mouth. This is a suction-based saliva ejector, and it sucks up the water and your own saliva. (Alternatively, in what is called ‘four-handed dentistry’, the dental nurse holds the saliva ejector in place.)

– Water and air jets. The water jet is used to clean debris away from the tooth or gum where the dentist is working. The air-jet is then used for drying that part of the mouth. Both are very powerful, and are powered


X-ray machine

In contrast to the large, forbidding x-ray machines of some fifteen years ago, when the dentist either hid in a corner or retired to another room every time an x-ray was taken, modern machines are small and have extremely low levels of stray radiation. Because they have high volt­age combined with low amperage, the dose of x-rays is very low. The net effect is that patients are exposed to very little more radiation than they would get from a luminous watch. Along with many other safety aspects of the surgery, x-ray machines are monitored by a govern­ment agency (National Radiation Board). They may be free-standing (mobile) or part of the main console.


X-ray developer

This is a small machine that develops x-rays in 5 minutes. This allows a full diagnosis to be made at the primary examination stage.


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