When looking for compressed air for your dental practice it is important that you get the best possible air quality and that your dental compressor provide you with the air you need to operate your practice. As a dentist you focus is on the patient and you just want know that you buy the best solution for your dental business.
Compressed air quality depends on the inlet air and what the compressor adds to it. Both oil-less and lubricated compressors are used in dentistry. Both require particulate filters to remove any airborne dirt and dust. With a lubricated compressor, the system must also include reliable coalescing filters to ensure patient safety.
Most dental compressors include a dryer to remove moisture. The common types are desiccant and membrane. Both types use air to purge the saturated desiccant material or membranes. This reduces the air available chairside. When selecting, consider how much dried, compressed air is needed for the purge.
To properly size a compressor, you need to know your air consumption and the capacity of the compressor. Consumption is usually determined by how many operatories are in use at a time. Capacity is the compressor output in cubic feet per minute (cfm), and can usually be found in product literature. As a rule of thumb, each chair needs approximately 2 cfm.
Dental compressor suppliers often simplify all this and just tell how many users a compressor will support. This is helpful, but you must check the duty cycle and actual flow to ensure you’re getting what you expect. Product literature may state pump displacement but not true capacity, which is a combination of actual volume output, duty cycle, and tank size.
Capacity and reliability are related because many compressors are designed with a limited “duty cycle” — the percentage of time a compressor can run without cooling off. For example, some dental compressors have a 30% duty cycle. This does not mean it can run three hours straight in a 10-hour day, but more like 18 minutes in an hour.
Dental compressors are often selected based on purchase price and quick availability — criteria that rarely lead to acquiring a quality product. Since a practice cannot run without them, it makes sense to pay attention to what you buy.