Treatment units: what to consider before you buy


  Posted by: manpreet.boora      25th October 2017

Learning objectives –

On completing this CPD article, the reader will:


  • Learn how to maximise performance and longevity from an existing or new treatment unit
  • Understand the importance of the treatment unit to the efficient running of the surgery
  • Review the ways in which the treatment unit contributes to a more comfortable patient experience


The treatment unit is pivotal to all dental procedures that take place in the surgery, from dental check-ups and prophylaxis to cosmetic dentistry, endodontics to restoratives and oral surgery to implantology. KaVo Dental recommends the key aspects to consider when reviewing an existing treatment unit or looking to purchase a new one to ensure performance and longevity of equipment, maximum efficiency for the dental practice and an enhanced patient experience.


KaVo draws on the experiences of dentist Dr Indira Rangel. Because of its established reliability, easy handling and optimal comfort the newly designed KaVo Primus™ 1058 Life is the top choice for Dr Indira Rangel. At the end of each procedure, it isn’t only the patient’s smile that makes her happy, but the confidence that her KaVo unit will continue to run smoothly, making every working day a happy day. Read more at:


Historians date the beginnings of dentistry back to the Indus Valley Civilization back in 7000 B.C. By 1500 B.C. more specific descriptions of the practice of dentistry and related oral health conditions emerged.

Considered the Father of Modern Dentistry, Pierre Fauchard published the pivotal book “The Surgeon Dentist, a Treatise on Teeth”, which is credited as the first guide providing a comprehensive perspective on dental care and treatment.

The 19th century was a particularly robust time for rapid advancement in dentistry. During this century the first dental college (Baltimore College of Dentistry) was established in the U.S. and the first mass production of toothpaste and toothbrushes commenced. Further enhancements continued in the 20th century and in 1965, KaVo developed the 1025 patient chair which was the first to enable dentists to ergonomically treat patients in the supine position: allowing for healthy and fatigue-free posture. Fast forwarding to the 21st century, the amount of dental practitioners, the diversity of specialities and the treatment options available to patients have greatly expanded. With this comes increasing demands from the dental treatment unit.


Maximising performance and longevity from the treatment unit


Quality construction

A durable and reliable treatment unit is a must to avoid treatment delays and postponed patient appointments.


Top Tip: Ensure the whole product is made from quality, durable materials that will stand up to the stresses that the unit will come under. Elements should fit together smoothly without gaps, for easy cleaning. Ensure separate aspects can be easily replaced if cracked (e.g. plastic) or ripped (e.g. upholstery).


Dr Rangel knows that her 1058 Life unit will run and run as smoothly as her treatments. For her working problem-free is like the yearly manufacturer service: just routine.


Take time with the seat test

If it is important for patients to be comfortable as the dentist works, it is equally important for the dentist to be comfortable as they work: An easy and smooth adjustable height of the patient chair and a comfortable backrest gives optimum working posture and access to the oral cavity.


Top-Tip: Test the treatment unit in different positions and remember to sit beside the chair and check that an ergonomic working position can be achieved. Assess pre-set options and feasibility for personalising these. Ask the manufacturer to provide details of clinics with the units installed to find out how they have been working in practice.


Top Tip: Check the minimum and maximum operating parameters of the treatment unit. For your ease and comfort remember to check the minimum and maximum working heights and ensure the proposed surgery has adequate space to allow easy movement around the unit.


Training provision and technical support by the manufacturer

To ensure the treatment unit is used as fully as possible and the life of the unit is maximised, ensure training is available from the manufacturer to demonstrate the complete range of features. Be confident that there is a technical support network in place for servicing requirements. Ask where the local engineers are based for the company and the average ‘fix time’.


Top-Tip: Get the most out of your KaVo dental equipment with a Treatment Unit Evaluation workshop. Find out more:


Importance of the treatment unit to the efficient running of the surgery


Aim for integration and future proofing

When selecting a dental chair, it is worth checking their flexibility and compatibility and give a preference to systems which allow the most possibilities for upgrading at a later date, for example if your speciality changes or you engage other practitioners. Having enough instrument holders and upgrade functions like USB ports could prove important in the long-term.


Top Tip: Find out as much as possible about the unit before purchase.

  • Does the unit have a built-in amalgam separator?
  • How many foot controls are there?
  • Is the unit ambidextrous?
  • Does the unit have a spittoon valve included?
  • Is there a 3 in 1 syringe included as standard?
  • Is the unit compatible with disposable 3 in 1 tips?

In addition, support for external products must also be taken into consideration because not all the necessary instruments/equipment will (may) be available from the same manufacturer. The dental equipment should be flexible enough for any future adaptations brought about by new requirements or an enlarged portfolio of services. So-called “open” systems are a favoured choice in this case and can offer considerable (financial) advantages. When researching options, ensure you are comparing the same specifications. Sometimes cheaper units may require items to be added later in the purchase process meaning additional costs or it may not be possible to add extra items.

Top-Tip: Aim for kits and additional items (e.g. electric motors, scalers, spittoon valve) to be provided by the same manufacturer as the treatment unit. This ensures all components are tested to the same standard and troubleshooting is a simpler process. It is worthwhile enquiring exactly what comes with a new unit as very often the price can rise if presumed items are not included. Decide if you will need to add items to the unit.


Automated functions

Automated functions such as turning off the chair lighting, rinsing the cuspidor bowl and refilling the mouthwash can contribute to easing the burden of your dental team. Make CQC compliance as easy as possible by choosing a treatment unit with automatic cleaning and rinsing capabilities. Automated hygiene routines and protocols for internal disinfecting and servicing of the dental chair can support and facilitate practice procedures.


Top Tip: Check the ongoing costs of cleaning fluids and the hygiene concept of the unit.


Intuitive dentist and assistant element

A dentist’s and assistant’s element that can be configured to your individual needs, movement pattern and any given treatment situation will enable you to feel comfortable and in complete control. Being able to save preferred settings (e.g. RPM of the instruments) and easily recall them helps to save time and is particularly useful in situations where multiple clinicians may use the same unit.


Working at her clinic with 5 treatment rooms and up to 40 personal patients per day, efficiency matters for Dr Rangel and her assistant. She chose the table version of the dentist’s element to enable easy access and handling of her instruments and to facilitate comfortable working by smoothly positioning the element. During the treatments, the integrated display and the one-touch direct buttons on the clearly-structured interface offer improved operating comfort and help Dr Rangel to feel in control of every treatment procedure.

Ways in which the treatment unit contributes to a more comfortable patient experience

It’s not only the dentist but also the patient who needs to love the dental unit. Comfort is essential for making the patient feel relaxed.


Add style to the surgery

Colours are known to have an influence on how you feel. Review the range of upholstery and paint colours available to help individualise and add character to the surgery as well as introduce a feeling of calm.


Top Tip: Choose soothing paint and upholstery colours to help your patients feel relaxed.


After nearly 20 years in practice, it takes mere seconds for Dr Rangel‘s patients to recognise that she is more than just a good dentist. She is a clinician dedicated to creating an environment of kindness, elegance and confidence. She is rigorous in her attention to detail, recognising that it is the small things that help build trust with patients and help make even the most complicated treatments easier. Dr Rangal uses a treatment unit she can rely on, just like her patients rely on her.


Patient comfort

The dental chair is the focal point of your patients experience — it’s where your patients will spend a majority of their time — so it is important to make sure that it’s comfortable. Dental chairs may offer multiple recline angles and a special head cushion to provide comfort, even during long dental treatments, without sacrificing efficiency and workflow.


Dr Rangel‘s patients appreciate the ergonomics of her treatment unit; the combination of the flexible reversible cushion, the comfortable double-jointed headrest, the armrests and the height adjustment of the backrest that ensures a relaxed position regardless of height. In addition, the footrest is raised or lowered automatically to match the inclination of the backrest – known as Trendelenburg-Movement.


Patient Communication

The treatment unit should be used to help communicate with the patient at a higher level than ever before to encourage their ‘buy-in’ of the treatments.


Look for a treatment unit with high definition screens and displays with high resolution image quality, high contrast values and outstanding colour reproduction which are designed to work with image recording devices like a camera and microscope. Screens should be easily operated with just one hand using touch displays, and they should adhere to strict hygiene standards with protective glass panes and minimal gaps. Being able to connect with your patient management system for an automated interface of data exchange also simplifies workflow.


The treatment unit is a significant investment for a dental practice and probably the item with which the dentist and dental team needs to feel most comfortable. Using the suggested considerations to help evaluate your existing unit or a new one will help you maximise the value the treatment unit brings to your daily work.

To complete this article and gain one hour of verifiable CPD,

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