Craig Neri, chief of dental clinical engineering at the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine in Farmington, Conn, is one such individual who has benefited by specializing in dental medicine.
As a student at the United States Air Force's
biomedical equipment training school over 30 years ago, he
had no idea that he
would end up spending his
entire career working with dental equipment.Stationed at what was then the USAF Hospital in Wiesbaden, Germany, he studied virtually every piece of equipment found in both hospitals and dental practices.
"This was an incredible experience for me, since I became familiar with some of the most high-tech equipment available at that time," Neri
After numerous budget cuts to the department, Neri
became the sole biomed responsible for servicing the 150 dental operatories and 35 dental x-ray machines in the dental school.In the medical center, he
also services a dental operatory in the emergency room, and a portable dental unit in the operating room.
"It has always been a very rewarding job because I develop a close rapport with most of the students and the dentists," Neri
says."Students have questions about the equipment while they're studying here, and as they get closer to graduation, they seek my input on what equipment to purchase."
Over the years, as dental equipment has evolved, servicing needs have changed.The components have been condensed and use fewer moving parts."Even though you're still dealing predominantly with pneumatics and water, you now have fewer devices performing the same functions," Neri
explains."I used to troubleshoot at the component level, but in many cases it's just not cost effective to do this anymore.It's just easier and cheaper to replace the component." Neri
is also seeing an increase in smaller support equipment, such as dental curing lights and devices used to diagnose, measure, and treat root canals."Most of this equipment is very small and not repairable in the field," he
says."Because it's so specialized, the manufacturers prefer that we ship it to them for servicing."
With such a large turnover of students working in the operatories each day and during night school, one of the big challenges is providing them with the necessary information to minimize repairs."It generally comes down to how people handle the equipment," Neri
says."I can leave work in the late afternoon and everything looks fine, and then return the next morning and I can't believe what's happened with the equipment."To help dental students learn technical information, Neri
conducts classes and provides printed material regarding basic maintenance and troubleshooting.One of the problems, however, is that after spending 10 minutes showing them how to use the equipment properly, they might not have an opportunity to use it for five to six weeks."By that time, they've been overloaded with so much information that they often have forgotten what I taught them."
Because the dental equipment has so many users, Neri
maintains a regular preventive maintenance (PM) check to ensure that all the devices are working properly.He
typically conducts the PM right before the students are required to take their dental boards.Some of the areas he
inspects are whether the chairs move properly, if there is sufficient water supply for the operatories, and if the high-speed air and fiber optical features in the hand pieces function correctly.
Neri stresses that a dental school is a rewarding place to work for those in the biomedical equipment field.At one point in his
had considered switching to the medical side of the business."Looking back, I'm glad I didn't," he