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Selecting Supplies and Equipment

Selecting Supplies and Equipment

Purchasing Portable Dental Equipment

The purchase of portable dental equipment is dependent upon a well-thought-out business plan that includes a capital equipment budget. In addition to deciding on the type and cost of portable dental equipment needed, it is important to determine the number of operatories required to maximize the number of students served by the program within the parameters of the capital-equipment budget.

Number of Operatories Needed

The number of operatories needed is driven by numerous factors including

  • Number of schools in the school-based dental sealant program catchment area
  • Number of students enrolled in each school and estimated participation rate
  • Number and type (e.g., dentist, dental therapist, dental hygienist, dental assistant, other support staff) of dental sealant program staff available
  • Size of available space in each school

Once all of the factors that influence the number of operatories needed have been identified and addressed, a simple table or spreadsheet can be used to determine the approximate cost of equipment needed to start a school-based dental sealant program.

Working with Dental Equipment Manufacturers and Distributors

Regardless of the purchasing process a school-based dental sealant program is required to follow, it is important to determine which brand and model of each piece of equipment best meets the program’s needs.

Some dental manufacturers sell directly to programs, and some distribute equipment through dental suppliers. All dental manufacturers publish a manufacturer’s recommended retail price, which includes an established profit margin for the manufacturer, and, when appropriate, for the dental supplier. Also, some manufacturers publish discounted institutional prices for government and nonprofit agencies.

All retail prices should be considered negotiable. Institutional prices may be negotiable depending on the volume of the purchase and the profit margin the manufacturer has established.

It may be preferable to purchase as many pieces of equipment as possible from a single manufacturer. Equipment will then be standardized and interchangeable, and it can be calibrated before it is shipped to the program (e.g., the dental unit’s air pressure can be properly adjusted).

Some programs are required to request formal bids from prospective vendors. If a program’s purchasing requirements do not allow it to specify manufacturer and model, then the request for bids should detail the equipment specifications (e.g., size, weight, horsepower, foot candles, portability), as specifically as possible. Otherwise, program administrators may be forced to purchase from the manufacturer that provides the lowest bid, even though the equipment may not meet program needs.

Preparing Equipment for Use

Before portable dental equipment is moved into a school-based dental sealant program, administrators should allot time to prepare the equipment for use. The equipment should be unpacked, and program administrators should read all manuals and instructions.

The dental unit and the internal or external compressor will need to be adjusted to work with the proper amount of air pressure. In some instances, quick-disconnect fittings will need to be installed on the compressor hose and dental unit. A service technician from a local dental supply company can calibrate equipment and assist with any adjustments. If no local dental supply companies are available, program administrators should consult the manufacturer. In some instances, manufacturer representatives can train staff to set up, use, and maintain the equipment.