The risk-free guide to dental air

The risk-free guide to dental airMichael George explores the idea that risk management in a dental setting can be of great benefit for little expense.

Getting the fundamentals right need not be a risk versus revenue conundrum, especially when it comes to dental air.

There are a number of potential risk areas in dental practice. These range from the newest addition to the pack, Covid-19, to other potential infection control issues, as well as equipment breakdown.

Universal precautions protect you, your team, and your patients. Hand-in-hand with that comes the need to protect the equipment necessary for you to perform your job effectively.

So, what springs to mind? First and foremost, perhaps X-ray safety and water lines come immediately to mind. Let me ask you this, what about the dental air that travels from your dental compressed air supply unit directly to your chair? It must be clean, dry and clear of any contaminants, but when did you last think about it?

Bigger challenge

The stark truth is this; should the air supply not be of the highest possible standard, there is real potential for the equipment, to which the air travels, to become damaged and even break down.

Think about it – compressed air-powered equipment is the lifeblood of the practice and without it the knock-on effects include cancellation of appointments, patients left without care or treatment, staff members without work and therefore, crucially, your practice without revenue until the fault can be rectified, or a replacement machine installed.

Interestingly, as a slight aside, you will probably have seen recently reported in the news that there have been delays in the supply chain when it comes to receiving new equipment into the country. Therefore, needing to replace something like the air supply unit has the potential to become an even bigger time challenge than ever before.

However, discerning companies within the industry, such as Dentalair, have been thinking ahead. They ensure they keep high quality equipment in stock and on order to overcome such obstacles.

Simply put, you can receive a new compressed air unit, fully installed by Dentalair, in as little as 24 hours. A service that is not available from all distributors in the UK, so beware your choice of distributor.

How to look after what you have

So, it is clear that getting the fundamentals right, before anything has the chance to go wrong, is the only reasonable way forward; prevention is often better than cure after all.

Guidance on how to do this is provided for the UK (except for Scotland) in ‘HTM 2022 – Supplement 1: Dental compressed air and vacuum systems’. It helps by identifying the requirements for compressed air to be used safely in clinics and surgeries, dental hospitals, dental teaching schools, and primary care trusts (PCTs).

It states: ‘Dental air is usually supplied via a compressor, which should be fitted with an air-intake filter and a post compression filtration and dryer system. This ensures that the air is clean and dry, minimising the risk of contamination of the system by micro-organisms and improving the efficiency of dental instruments.’

So far, so clear. Then we get to the issue of dew point, which, in essence, is the point at which water is removed from the air. This is where it gets really interesting for dental practices. Supplement one of HTM 2022 requires compressed air to have a dew point of no less than -20°C.

However, it is imperative to understand that this is not the point at which there will be no moisture whatsoever and therefore some risk remains. For example, moisture presence can result in carbon and/or oil travelling through the pipelines, ultimately damaging bearings in the handpiece, and even ending up in patients’ mouths.

The medical requirement for dew point is no less than -46°C, meaning the air is bone dry and eliminating all the risks mentioned here. That is what we in the dental industry should be working towards, and clean, bacteria free, medical grade air is available now. Be the standard bearer for clean, safe air; don’t wait for the industry to catch up with you.

It’s easy to mitigate the risks

The Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) Fundamental Standards, combined with taking supplement one of HTM 2022 on board, will help hugely in assessing and mitigating risks.

The CQC requires you to do all that is reasonably practicable to mitigate risks. The team should follow good practice guidance. They must also adopt control measures to make sure the risk is as low as is reasonably possible.

In addition, such methods and measures should be reviewed and amended to address changing practice. Be aware, manage risks to reduce recurrence, and record evidence that you have done so.

In meeting the requirements, you may find this accompanying checklist helpful. For instance, you may wish to share it in a team meeting or pass it on to the responsible person in your practice such as the practice manager. This will ensure your team is aware of the risks associated with your compressed air supply.

Never forget that the financial health of your practice depends upon a reliable supply of high-quality (preferably medical grade) air. This is alongside a maintenance service schedule from a reputable company or engineer who is ISO 9001 certified.

The solution is here and available now

Medical grade compressed air combined with reliable service support is the most efficient way of ensuring this aspect of dental practice does not result in equipment failure and financial loss.

So, what if you could guarantee the following?

  • New, bespoke compressed air supply unit
  • 100% medical-grade, oil-free, bacteria-free compressed air supply
  • Clinical, sound proofed cabinet to reduce noise
  • Free on-site support
  • Free installation
  • All certification provided (CQC, PSSR, HTM, etc.)
  • Same/next day call out support
  • Annual servicing
  • One fixed monthly fee.

All for just £5 per chair, per week.

The Air to the Chair support package offers you all of this. To find out more and join the growing number of dentists who have signed up to this unique and exceptional service, simply visit

Your dental compressor checklist to getting the fundamentals right (subject to manufacturer instructions)

Overarching requirements

  • Read the user manual
  • Ensure your compressor is serviced regularly (installation, testing and maintenance of dental compressors should be carried out by competent authorities, that is companies and individuals certificated under BS EN ISO 9001 with a defined scope of expertise)
  • Use medical grade air that is oil- and bacteria-free fit clinical, sound-proofed casing to reduce noise
  • Ensure all of your certification is up to date (e.g. CQC, PSSR, HTM, etc.) and in accordance with British Standard ISO9001, NHS HTM2022/1 and European Pharmacopeia
  • Log all maintenance checks. Ensure all servicing/repairs are documented and a copy of the full service report is kept on file.

After procedures involving blood

  1.  A glass of cold water to be aspirated through the hose or hoses used

On a daily basis

  1. A suitable cleaning and disinfecting agent needs to be aspirated through the system
  2. Clean out large-particle filters. Do not dispose of waste down drains
  3. Switch off small compressor units at the close of surgery.

Every week

  1. If the compressor is not fitted with auto drains, empty the receiver
  2. Check oil levels (if appropriate).

At the specified frequency (please note if you already use a Dentalair air supply unit, the below actions in this section are not necessary)

  1. Change filter elements, in traps, separators etc. Clean these units as specified. Filters should be treated as clinical waste and disposed of accordingly
  2. Maintenance personnel should wear protective gloves and a facemask when changing filters/cleaning filter housings
  3. Local infection control procedures should be followed. Or, in their absence, the advice on bacteria filter changing given in HTM 2022 ‘Operational management’.

This checklist is based upon HTM 2022 – Supplement 1: Dental compressed air and vacuum system.

For further information, please see the original guidance document, available for download here.

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