Dental Air Quality Testing FAQs

Why test dental air?

Save your practice money! Poor quality dental air can have a direct impact on your patients, equipment and dental procedures. Dental air contaminated with high levels of water, oil or particulates will have a direct impact on your daily activities

  • High water content can cause micro organism contamination – causing possible infection to patients (Dental implant manufacturers recommend a “sterile field” to reduce the risk to patients during this procedure)
  • High water/oil content can cause corrosion to dental hand instruments, reducing their working life
  • Oil/particulate content can affect the efficiency of dental composites – any oil/particulate contamination can cause problems with the bonding surfaces.
  • electrical micro motor instruments can suffer damage from the use of cooling air contaminated with high levels of water and/or oil

Manufacturers of dental compressors, hand equipment, dental composites and dental implants highly recommend, at least, an annual test as part of the equipments Planned Preventative Maintenance schedule to ensure that the air being used does not adversely affect their products; ask your local sales representatives.

  • Where does this contamination come from?

Click on the link for background on the how dental compressors operate:

Excess water, if not dealt with properly, can saturate filters causing them to fail; allowing potentially hazardous micro organisms through. This can also cause the filter to breakdown, creating particulate contamination

  • I already get my compressor serviced regularly so why do I need your service?

The regular service visits do not test the air emitting from the compressor, these visits will visually inspect for damage to the filters (if fitted) and check for water in the receiver. This would be like getting your car serviced but NOT performing an MOT.

  • But does this matter, my equipment is getting sterilised frequently

Dental hand equipment is decontaminated regularly as part of local policy but contaminated air being used daily can reduce the working life of the equipment and adversely affect the micro motors and turbines.

  • I am drilling through infected teeth so the infection risk is already there!

The risk to patients is already present but the micro organisms found in poorly maintained dental receivers can include pseudomonas; these organisms pose a significant risk to you, your staff and the patient

  •  I am mixing the air with water to drill

The water being used in dental processes should be managed in accordance with the guidelines and recommended practices issued by the UK Health & Safety Executive L8 and the Health and Safety Commission (HSC) and is supported by the Department of Health’s guidance documents:

  • Health Technical Memorandum 01-05: Decontamination in Primary Care Dental Practices (HTM01-05)
  • Health Technical Memorandum 04-01: The control of Legionella, hygiene, “safe” hot water, cold water and       drinking water systems (HTM04-01)

The water from the compressed air line will not be controlled or tested and will pose a risk

  • Is testing a statutory requirement?

Not yet The NHS guidance document (Health Technical Memorandum 2022 Supplement 1) discusses dental compressed air and provides further details of air quality requirements for dental surgeries in hospital settings.

Testing of air emitting from a dental compressor is not a statutory requirement in a NHS or privately run dental practice. However if an incident was to occur it would be the NHS dental surgeries responsibility to explain why the NHS guidance document was not implemented.

Private surgeries are not required to conform to the NHS guidance document HTM2022 but this document provides excellent guidance as to the quality of compressed air that should be supplied to any surgery. Best practice demands that air used in dental surgeries is free from the contaminants.

The HTM 2022 Supplement 1 document is under review in consultation with the BDA

  • How is the QC testing performed?

The testing will be performed at the site of the compressor. A test point will be installed by either your servicing company or iOQ Services. Once the test point is installed the testing can be performed without any interruption to daily workload. The testing would highlight any problems with the compressor and remedial action will be recommended if required

  • What will happen if a problem is found? Will I need to do anything?

If a problem is highlighted during the testing it would be recommended that this is fixed as a matter of urgency as this will already be causing problems on a daily basis and costing you money! Even if you are not fully aware of them, problems like:

  • Patients returning with unexplained infection or problems with recent dental implants/composites
  • Hand equipment malfunctioning
  • Increased service visits for equipment and motors