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How to Choose the Best Dental Chair

For the dentist, the dental chair is an essential piece of equipment for you to do your job. But to your patients, the dental chair is the focal point of your office, making it representative of your practice and of the care they expect to receive. 

dental operatory chair

What to Look for in a Dental Chair

To ensure the success of your practice, your dentist chairs should be: comfortable for you, your team, and your patients; functional and reliable; and complementary to your office décor. 

Comfort

The ergonomics of your dental chair affect the comfort of your patients as well as the productivity of you and your staff. 

For the patient, the chair should offer good support and cushioning regardless of their size. Some chairs are designed to sync with the patient’s body when the chair is lowered or raised to eliminate repositioning. Look for headrests with adjustable positioning, especially if your practice includes children. Extras include built-in massagers and heating units. 

And don’t forget armrests that can be moved to allow the patient ease of entry and egress.

For you, the chair should get your patients close enough that you can perform your procedures, but still allow you to maintain a healthy posture. Also consider the width of the chair’s back. Wide back chairs provide more comfort to your patients, but they can make it more difficult for you to access them. A dental chair with a narrower back can make your job easier, so find a chair with a width that works for you. 

Your chair should also have mechanical chair positioning capability to allow you to achieve the best access to the patient.

Functionality

A smart, modern-looking dental chair will inspire confidence in your patients and improve your effectiveness. Today’s chairs offer several technological features, including options such as:

  • Control panel with easily accessible buttons or a touchscreen to adjust chair position, operatory accessories, and the speed of the lifting and lowering of the chair
  • Programmable memory settings for seat positions
  • Joystick-style foot control

For all the bells and whistles, though, your chair’s most important feature is its reliability. Whether new or pre-owned, the chair you buy should perform flawlessly for years—at least 10 years from when you purchase. Check reviews from other dentists if you’re unsure about a particular model.

blue dental operator chair

Aesthetics

Your dental chairs are prominently displayed in your offices, and one of the first things your patient sees when they come for an appointment—even before meeting you. Nearly all dental chairs can be customized with the colors, fabrics, and finishes that will complement your room’s décor, so consider the shapes, styles, and sizes of the chairs you like before deciding.

Pro Tip: Your dental chair’s upholstery will wear and fade from repeated cleaning, disinfecting, and everyday use. These signs of aging can take away from the professional look of your entire treatment room. Give your dental chairs and stools a refreshed appearance by applying affordable upholstery kits.

Other considerations

Dental operatory configurations: Many dental chairs include chair-mounted lights and dental delivery systems to create complete dental operatory packages. These all-in-one configurations are popular purchases thanks to their ease of installation: electrical and utility connections are consolidated, so there’s no need to add wiring and mounting support in the ceiling or to the walls. Some configurations allow for mobile cart or cabinet-installed delivery systems. 

Buying your dental chair and accessories separately, on the other hand, allows you to install your delivery system and light fixtures wherever you want them, such as in a cabinet or mounted to the ceiling. 

More and more dentists are opting for free-standing dental chairs with ceiling-mounted lights and delivery systems stored in a cabinet located behind the patient’s head. This configuration reduces patient anxiety by keeping dental instruments out of their view; the additional empty space surrounding the chair provides a more relaxing experience.

Careful planning and consulting with a knowledgeable equipment provider can save you money and eliminate the guesswork of choosing dentist equipment and accessories that work together.

New vs. refurbished: You can save approximately 40-60% buying a pre-owned chair instead of brand-new. Avoid buying used chairs that haven’t been refurbished, as these are less likely to have been thoroughly tested for parts that need replacement. A professionally refurbished dental chair is disassembled so tubing and other components can be replaced, reupholstered, and painted before being reassembled and offered for sale. See the refurbishment process for a dental chair in this video.

If you choose to purchase a refurbished dental chair, you still have the option to add state-of-the-art delivery systems and LED lighting regardless of the chair’s age.

Retailer: Choose an equipment seller that specializes in dental offices and that has your best interests in mind—someone focused on how your choices best fit your budget and your office. 

Warranty: A five-year manufacturer’s warranty is common on new equipment. For a refurbished dental chair, a reputable reseller will provide a 1-year warranty and options for an extended warranty. 

Servicing: Your dental chair may need an occasional tune-up. Look for retailers with a network of dental technicians to help with installation and service and be sure the seller offers telephone and online support. 

Tax implications: As a capital expenditure, your dental chair purchase is deductible—regardless of whether you buy new or refurbished. You can take deductions in the purchase year for as much as $1,000,000 under the current laws

Ultimately, it’s your office, so find a dental chair you really love. 

Dental Chair Buying Guide FAQs

Q. What are the differences between hydraulic and electromechanical dental chairs?

A. Hydraulic chairs contain a pump and a series of valves to move and position the chair while electromechanical chairs have motors that control each movement—one to lift, one to recline. As hydraulic chairs tend to be a bit more quiet and smooth when lifting and lowering, they are more common. Keep in mind some hydraulic chairs lower slowly when the chair is empty – but function normally with the weight of a seated patient.  

Q. Can a dental chair accommodate both left- and right-handed dentists?

A. A chair with a delivery unit and/or light fixture that is radius or swing-mounted can be positioned for either left- or right-handed dentists. The convenience of this type of operatory comes with a modest price premium. Cabinet-mounted delivery units can also be configured for either left- and right-handed dentists.

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