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Tech Tips #60: Keep It Flowing, Maintain Your Filters

We’ve covered maintenance of various devices in the dental office in previous issues of Tech Tips. One of the key elements of routine maintenance is filtration. Periodic replacement of filter elements is at the core of a good maintenance routine. It’s amazing how often we talk with people who don’t even know some of their filters exist, let alone take the time to maintain them. This month, we’re going to run down some of the basics of filtration and where you need to look for filters to be sure to keep your equipment running well.

Two of the most commonly overlooked filters are the air and water filters in your junction box, so look for them where the air and water come into the operatory.  Every dental unit should have a master valve on the main air and water lines (the water master may be absent if you don’t have a connection to your municipal water supply). Master valves control on/off of the air or water and will almost always have a filter incorporated as well.

Two common styles of master valve are shown below:

The second master valve shown incorporates our EZ-view filter housing. Most master valves have a filter housing that is opaque, often chrome-plated, so the filter is not as obvious as it is on our valve.

As you can see in the photos, both styles of master have a filter within a cylindrical housing. Most filter elements are round or cylindrical, so look for components with that shape.

Of course, air is filtered before it gets to the junction box as well. There are both inlet and outlet filters on your compressor.

You compressor should draw in fresh air from outside. The air inlet will have a filter to remove impurities from the air. Your inlet filter should be checked quarterly and will usually need to be replaced annually.

Intake filters come in many shapes, sizes, and forms. A few examples are pictured below:

Your compressor should also have a line dryer to remove moisture from the air. While not strictly a filter, the dryer will treat the air and remove foreign bodies, much as do filters. Your dryer will also work in combination with one or more filters. You will have a water and solids particle filter and if your compressor is oil lubricated, you’ll also have a coalescing filter to remove any oil residue.

The drying tank shown above is a desiccant tank which is what we recommend. Most desiccant tanks are self-regenerating, using the compressed air to dry the desiccant beads and purging excess moisture as well. The filters that work with the tank are also self-purging so element changes should be infrequent. Nonetheless , we also recommend quarterly inspection of these filters just to be sure they are functioning properly as it doesn’t take long for problems to develop should something go wrong. There is no routine replacement schedule, however, they should be replaced strictly on an “as needed” basis.

While in your mechanical room, you should also check your central vacuum. Wet vacuums will have a filter on the water inlet. This filter is extremely important to function of a wet vacuum as debris in the water line can damage a wet vacuum pump. Clogs in this filter will also impede water flow and can thus impact your vacuum pressure reducing the effectiveness of your system. This means it’s imperative that you keep an eye on your water inlet filter. Usually debris builds up over time, so quarterly inspections should be adequate.

There will also be a particulate filter on the vacuum line feeding into the system from the ops. This helps to keep your drain lines clean and flowing well. The same type of filter is often used on both the water inlet and vacuum main lines, a simple mesh element in a clear plastic bowl to facilitate inspection.

As the above filter goes on the main water or vacuum drain lines, the inlet and outlet fittings have female pipe thread. It’s generally pretty easy to adapt from one size of pipe thread to another, but we also show pipe thread profiles at actual size in our catalog and on our web site for comparison so you can purchase a filter to match your existing pipe.

It’s important to note that there are MANY sizes of filters like this so measure what you have before purchasing a replacement. We can also cross-reference Pinnacle part numbers for our replacement filter cartridges of this type.

Anywhere in the dental office that there is air or water there should also be filtration. Don’t forget your sterilizer! Autoclaves have filters on the water line that feeds into the chamber. These filters should be changed as part of your routine annual maintenance.  They can become clogged more quickly than this, however, so it’s wise to check them quarterly as well.

Most sterilizers use sintered bronze filters like the one pictured above, although many also use stainless steel screens or other filter media. Consult your owner’s manual to determine what type of filter your sterilizer uses and where it is located. If clogged you will often see debris coating the filter but it will also often become discolored, pitted, or can even crack (although this may be a sign of other problems in your sterilizer).

There are a number of critical pieces of equipment in your office that rely on pressurized air and or water, all of these have filters to remove various types of foreign matter from your lines and keep functioning well. Keep an eye on your filters to make sure your equipment keeps working well.

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Tech Tips #59: How to Install a Handpiece Illumination System- Video

Anyone can add a handpiece illumination system to a dental unit in minutes. Watch this video on just how simple it can be!

Can’t see the video? You can also view this video on Youtube.

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Using just a 301 Elevator to Extract a Wisdom Tooth

In the following video, Dr. Tommy Murph of South Carolina shows how to extract a wisdom tooth using just a 301 elevator he purchased from American Dental Accessories.

He extracts #17 in less than one minute just using this single instrument.

*note this video features graphic content of oral surgery. We are posting for viewing by dental professionals only. Viewer discretion is strongly advised.

Extraction with just a 301

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Tech Tips #58: Japanese-Style Handpieces

In previous issues of Tech Tips, we’ve discussed various aspects of handpieces, including dental handpiece maintenance, dental handpiece design, and factors that influence dental handpiece torque.

As we discussed, one of the factors that influences torque is the turbine in your highspeed handpiece. This month, we’re going to look at the “Japanese” style dental highspeed handpieces to see what sets this type of handpiece apart.

The Japanese style dental handpiece design is the most popular highspeed in the world. It was originally designed and manufactured in Japan, hence the name. However, Japanese style handpieces are now manufactured all over the world. This design has been used for decades by a wide range of manufacturers. As it is so widely used, many also refer to these as “generic” or “universal” dental handpieces.  Naturally, being widely used means that there are a great number of “brand names” that appear on Japanese style handpieces as the Japanese style has been very commonly used for “house brand” handpieces as well (such as our own American highspeed series #15-30, 15-31, 15-32 & 15-33). Note that these same brand names appear on handpieces that also use other dental turbines (most notably, NSK) so it’s important to know the model and not just the manufacturer.

The Japanese style handpiece offers a good combination of reliability, size (for superior access and vision), torque, and convenience. The “standard” Japanese handpiece has a smaller head than many other handpieces so it affords good access and visibility.

However, for those who require a particularly small head, these handpieces also come in “mini” (small head) size. The mini head handpiece is often popular with pediatric specialists, although smaller size for easy access can be beneficial to many practitioners (GP & specialist alike).

For those who require more torque, you can also purchase a Japanese style handpiece with a “supergrade” (large) head. The larger bearings and impeller of the “supergrade” will typically yield more power.

As with most handpieces, the Japanese style is also offered with options such as fiber optics and a push-button chuck or even a swivel quick disconnect coupler for added convenience

One of the key ways to differentiate the Japanese style handpiece is the turbine. Japanese style handpieces can be used with a standard “canister” turbine (or just “can” for short). A canister turbine has the same components as any other turbine (see our issue on dental handpiece design) but the entire turbine is then encased in a metal shell, or canister. The canister encloses the bearings, o’rings, washers, and other components so there is no need to take the care with these components as one would with other turbines.

15-80 standard Japanese canister

A typical canister turbine

As the components are encased, canister-style turbines are EXTREMELY simple, straight-forward, and easily replaced in just a few seconds by any member of staff. None of the o’rings, washers, or other delicate components are loose or exposed so you don’t have to worry about proper handling of them. One cannot twist o’rings, get washers out of place, or run into any of the other common “user errors” during installation of a canister turbine. This means canister turbines can even be replaced chairside in just a few seconds.

Simple turbine changes make the Japanese style handpiece the easiest, quickest, and most economical to service. No need to send it out. No need to spend a great deal of time making sure that you have removed all of the old turbine components and cleaning out handpiece heads. Just push the old canister turbine out and pop the new canister turbine in.

You’ll note in the above photo, the standard canister has flat ends, like a can of soup. There are a wide range of other turbines in shells that are not standard canisters. These turbines will taper at one end or the other, bear o’rings on the exterior, have extra grooves or notches, or possess other distinguishing features.

A pair of non-standard canister turbines

A pair of non-standard canister turbines

In order to keep the turbine properly oriented within the handpiece head, the canister turbine will have a “lock pin” on the top of the canister. Most manufacturers affix a small ball bearing to the top of the canister turbine to serve this purpose. Sometimes there is a raised area manufactured into the canister shell instead. Either way, this projection needs to be lined up with a small notch in the top of the handpiece head. The lock pin keeps the canister turbine stable within the handpiece head, which is important as the canister has two holes cut in it for passage of drive air and exhaust air. The holes in the canister must line up with the drive air and exhaust air holes at the bottom of the handpiece head for it to function. You can see how the lock pin engages in our turbine installation video in Tech Tips or our You Tube channel.

Naturally, the turbine will change for the mini head and supergrade head handpieces which use “mini” (small) and “supergrade” (large) versions of the standard can. These variations on the canister turbine have the same “soup can” shape but are smaller or larger in size.

Canister turbines are also economical as they usually are available at some of the lowest prices of any turbine on the market. Of course, there are many brands at various prices and not all canister turbines are created equal (even though they share the same design and should be interchangeable). Most canister turbines on the market carry a 90 day warranty. American Dental Accessories, Inc. will warranty all canister turbines for 6 full months, twice the industry standard.

When looking for a solid, reliable, easily serviced and economical handpiece, the Japanese style can serve very well in the typical dental office.

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Charity Trip to Guatemala and get 40 CE credits!

Once again, Doctors Tommy Murph and Gayle Fletcher are planning another hands-on course for up to 40 PACE credits – this time in poverty-stricken Guatemala.
They’ll be extending humanitarian aid to impoverished citizens while providing instruction to dentists to refine techniques of exodontia.
Three full days of hands-on instruction and 16 hours of lecture are planned from June 30th through July 4th.
Their comprehensive instruction will cover everything from simple extractions to complex horizontal 3rd molars. Learn techniques for removing teeth with minimal trauma and how to handle complications if and when they arise.
Techniques in delivering anesthesia, suturing, laying flaps, instrument selection and use will all be discussed and demonstrated.
Additionally, those who complete the course will be armed with information on how to handle complications such as bleeding, sinus perforations and swelling.
CE packages are available for the full course (including hands-on work) or for the lecture only.

Send an e-mail to for full details including course fees.

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Tech Tips #57: Convert a Screw-On Style HP into a Swivel QD- Video

Improve ergonomics by installing a swivel quick-disconnect onto your handpiece. This video demonstrates just how easy it is to convert a screw-on style handpiece into a swivel quick-disconnect.

Can’t see the video? You can also view this video on Youtube.

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Tech Tips #56: Why You Should Install Self-Contained Water Systems

Last month in Tech Tips we discussed how to install a self-contained water system. But why would you want to do so? What are the benefits to using an independent water source?

Over the past two decades, much has been written about dental unit water lines (DUWL) and their impact on infection control. Way back in 1992 the American Dental Association issued a standard to help address water quality issues. Later on, they also set a goal for dental equipment manufacturers to improve the quality of water delivered by the dental unit. The ADA wanted DUWL to have less than 200 bacteria colony forming units (CFU) per milliliter of water (this is the standard for drinking water). On testing, many dental units were found to have 5 or even 10 times of this level.

Most typical household (and dental office) plumbing consists of 3/4″ or 1/2″ inside diameter pipes. This provides a fairly robust volume of water flow, particularly relative to the surface area on the inside of the pipes. Most dental units have water lines that are mostly either 1/8″ or even 1/16″ inside diameter. This provides a very low volume of water flow, particularly when compared to the surface area on the inside of the hose.  On top of that, dental units sit idle for long periods of time (overnights and on weekends) so the water is stagnant (zero flow) during this time. In addition, many dental devices (e.g. handpieces and ultrasonic scalers) generate tremendous amounts of heat. These conditions are ideal for bacterial growth.

A recent study conducted at Purdue University ( found that biofilm can form and grows at a tremendous rate. Not only does the bacteria grow at a tremendous rate, but the biofilm growth will form a web which will trap more bacteria increasing the size of the colony at an exponential rate. In fact, the biofilm mass can increase in size so quickly that the study found the lines could be completely clogged with biofilm in as little as 55 hours!

While reducing bacteria is extremely important in your infection control efforts, just reducing the likelihood of clogging is a tremendous benefit of using self-contained systems.

By using a self-contained water system, not only are you able to control the bacterial levels of the water as it enters your unit, you are also able to take steps to counter the growth of bacteria in the lines.

Self-contained water systems are “powered” by the office compressed air. This means air flows into the reservoir of the system to force the water out. This means air flows into the reservoir of the system to force the water out. Since air is flowing into the water system, you can use this air to dry the lines at the end of every day so you don’t have standing water in the system for prolonged periods. Many water systems will have a valve incorporated to flush the lines with air. Of course, you can also simply install an empty bottle and turn the unit on to perform an air purge as well.

There are many chemical treatments that can be added to your bottles to kill bacteria or inhibit bacterial growth as well. Some of these are used periodically (daily, weekly, etc.) and some are introduced constantly with the unit water.

As we saw last month, installing self-contained is a simple and straight-forward process. Using self-contained water will save money, improve the quality of your unit water (and thus enhance your efforts in infection control), and reduce down time and repairs (by reducing clogging).

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Dentist Upgrades Operatory and Saves!

This photo shows how one of our customers (name withheld by request) was able to upgrade an operatory and still save. He used a Beaverstate control head to retrofit into his cabinet replacing an aged a-dec unit.

This Beaverstate Control Head is right at home

The new Beaverstate unit features smooth lines for easy cleaning. We also configured the unit with fibre optics, a self-contained water system, and assistant’s vacuum valves (HVE and SE).

By using a self-contained water system the doctor can control his water quality. Using the system as the only source of water also saved money as he didn’t need to purchase a water master valve.

This doctor shows that you don’t need to invest in a whole operatory of equipment to update your office. With American Dental Accessories, Inc. you can make small changes to individual components and still improve your practice.

Got a project you’d like to share? How about a unit you’ve installed? Maybe just a couple photos of an op freshened up by simply installing new tubing? Tells us about it! Send your photos and stories and receive $25 American Dental Reward Dollars*.

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Tech Tips #55: How to Install a Self-Contained Clean Water System- Video

Self-contained water systems can provide many benefits. Not only do they allow you to flush cleaning solutions through your lines to control water quality, but they can also be used to introduce medicaments, dry your water lines, and even make you independent of municipal water supplies saving money too!

Can’t see the video? You can also view this video on our blog or Youtube.

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Tech Tips #54: Proper Denture Care

Unfortunately, despite your best efforts some patients become edentulous.  After undertaking the time and effort to create a functional appliance, you want to be sure your patient has the necessary information to care for their appliance properly to get the longest useful life out of it.

This month, we’re posting a copy of the patient instructions that come with our denture care kits. These instructions tell patients how to properly care for their appliance and keep it clean.



Your dentures are fragile, handle them with care. While handling the denture, stand over a folded towel or hold them over a sink filled with water so if they are dropped, they will not be damaged.

Brush and rinse your dentures daily. A soft bristle brush designed for cleaning dentures is recommended. Hard bristle brushes can damage the plastic or bend metal parts. Hand soap, mild dish soap, and specifically designed denture cleaners are recommended. An ultrasonic cleaner may also be used.

When not worn, keep your dentures moist so that they do not dry out and lose their shape. You may keep them immersed in a denture cleanser soaking solution or water. Do not use hot water, as this can cause the denture to warp. If your denture has metal parts that may tarnish, check with your dentist on proper storage methods.

NEVER attempt to adjust or repair your dentures, as this may cause permanent damage to the denture. In the event that the denture breaks, cracks, chips, or a tooth comes loose, contact your dentist. Most repairs can be made the same day.


You can download a pdf version of these instructions on our web site or use the “Print Friendly” button below to easily print this article. Feel free to print it out to give to your patients.

Our denture care kits not only include these instructions, but also a denture case, cleaning brush, and cleaning tablets for you to give to your patients with their new appliance. With our kits, you can be assured your patients will have the tools and information to properly care for their new appliance.

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