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ADA campaign urges twice yearly checks on status of dental equipment, supplies

March 19, 2012

As daylight saving time arrives in the spring and fall, expect to receive some reminders from the ADA about dental office safety checks.

The ADA is launching a Safety Awareness Campaign in 2012 to remind all dental professionals to perform routine safety checks on equipment and supplies in their offices. The reminders will be issued to members through publications and on when daylight saving time begins and ends. A dental office checklist is also available for downloading from

Dr. Edwards

“There is equipment in the dental office that is not regularly inspected and often there’s no expiration date on it,” said Dr. Michael D. Edwards, chair of the ADA Council on Dental Education and Licensure’s Committee on Anesthesiology and CDEL’s Ad Hoc Committee on a Safety Awareness Campaign. “Therefore, it may go unnoticed until a failure occurs. Instead of going through breakdowns in practice that cost dollars and time, the ADA Safety Awareness Campaign will give dentists an opportunity to inspect and take action on needed items that may not be routinely checked during maintenance.”

The checklist will provide members with information on how to safety-check nitrous oxide equipment, X-ray equipment, automatic external defibrillators, dental unit water lines, sterilization equipment, amalgam recovery protocols, and medications in medical emergency and drug kits. It is available for download under Practice Management Tools at “”.

CDEL has taken the lead in developing the Safety Awareness Campaign. As it gathered steam, additional councils were brought in to offer their expertise. CDEL appointed an ad hoc committee that included the councils on Communications, Dental Practice, Membership and Scientific Affairs.

“This is another example of how the ADA provides support to dentists so they can succeed in their practices,” said Dr. Thomas Kelly, a member of the Council on Membership who served on the ad hoc committee.

“Safety is one of the highest priorities we have as dentists,” said Dr. Kelly. “In the day-to-day business of running a practice and caring for patients, having a reminder for things that have to happen for maintenance and compliance is a real member benefit. The checklist that we created allows us to review areas in the office that are important for safety and the support of our patients as well as the professional team.”

American dentistry has a tremendous safety record, said Dr. Pamela Ray, a member of the Council on Communications and ad hoc committee member.

“Rather than regulating safety checks, what we’ve done is develop recommended guidelines that dentists and staff can follow,” said Dr. Ray. “This is a systematic approach for dentists, which hopefully will make practice a little easier.”

Nitrous oxide systems are included among safety checks in the campaign. Dr. William MacDonnell, a dentist-anesthesiologist and a member of the Committee on Anesthesiology, said that nitrous oxide is a vital tool in the dental practice—but if it’s not installed properly, it can have devastating consequences.

“Pain and anxiety control is a real access to care issue. Over 50 million Americans don’t go to the dentist because of fear and anxiety,” said Dr. MacDonnell. “Nitrous oxide is the safest form of anxiety control dentistry has. But the lines must be installed properly or there’s a risk for a hypoxic mixture.”

The ADA Safety Awareness Campaign gives members an opportunity to check the proper functioning of the nitrous oxide unit’s failsafe system and installation of the system’s pin-index or diameter-index safety system, said Dr. MacDonnell.

“Anytime a plumber works on a nitrous oxide system, the dentist should check it out to be safe. Anytime there is a new installation, check it out before using it on patients. Anytime you go to use the system for the first time, check it out,” said Dr. MacDonnell. “A lot of times, the dentist expects the installer or plumber to take care of problems. But people do make mistakes.”