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Welcome to the 100th edition of Practice Tips, brought to you by American Dental Accessories! For over a decade, we’ve been providing you with valuable maintenance and equipment repair insights to help you become more self-sufficient and minimize costs.
In this milestone issue, we’re going to delve into a crucial aspect of dental supplies, repairs, and maintenance: O-rings! These small but mighty components are used in various dental equipment, from handpieces and delivery system blocks to air/water syringes and autoclaves. They even play a role in the hydraulics of your dental chair. O-rings act as essential seals and connectors, ensuring smooth functioning all around your practice.
Understanding O-ring Anatomy
O-rings are circular seals made from circular materials. Their defining feature is their perfect circular shape, both externally and internally. If you were to cut an o-ring and examine its end, you’d see a circular cross-section. However, there’s no need to take such drastic measures—the shape can be determined by touch alone. For instance, your forearm’s cross-section is a rough oval, but you don’t have to resort to self-amputation to figure that out. (Please don’t try this at home!)
Mathematically, o-rings are measured in two dimensions: inside diameter (i.d.) and cross-section (c.s.). The outside diameter (o.d.) can be extrapolated easily using these two measurements. If you’d like to learn more dental terms and abbreviations, take a look at our Practice Tip #95.
The Challenge of Measuring O-rings
O-rings are manufactured with precise tolerances, making them tricky to measure accurately. Even with the aid of precise calipers, it’s still challenging to avoid compressing the ring. The best approach is to use a sizing chart for comparison. In our catalog, you’ll find a handy o-ring sizing page, or you can print off the sizing chart here.
Standardization and Numbering System
The o-ring industry has its own set of standard sizes, with an industry numbering system created exclusively for these components. Interestingly, many dental manufacturers incorporate the o-ring industry part number into their own part numbers.
For instance, our #18-OR-002 is equivalent to o-ring industry #002 (also known as 1-002). A-dec, a well-known dental equipment manufacturer, identifies this size as 030-002-02 (or 030.002.02). By paying attention to the “002” in the part number, you can easily cross-reference o-rings.
These standardized o-rings are commonly used in dental equipment because they are readily available. Many of the “standard” o-rings found in your equipment, including our deluxe and standard kits, belong to these numbered sizes.
O-rings are crafted from a wide range of materials. Given their crucial role in dental settings, they are typically made of flexible materials, often synthetic rubber. These materials come in various colors, but it’s important to note that color alone does not determine suitability or size. Manufacturers might color-code o-rings for specific applications, but this practice is highly individualized and ultimately arbitrary. So, regardless of color, what matters most is finding the correct size for your needs. The aforementioned numbering system can assist you in identifying the right o-ring.
While the majority of o-rings we stock are black for simplicity, they can be used interchangeably with o-rings of different colors used by original equipment manufacturers.
While color is inconsequential, the material’s ability to withstand sterilization is crucial. If an o-ring is used in devices that require sterilization, it must be capable of withstanding the rigors of the sterilization process. At American Dental Accessories, we only stock o-rings that can be autoclaved. This means you can sterilize them if necessary, regardless of their application. You don’t need to worry about keeping them separate based on use—store them organized by size in a designated bin or consider purchasing a kit with multiple o-ring sizes to cater to all your needs.
The Importance of Having O-rings on Hand
Much like light bulbs and sterilizer door gaskets, having common dental o-rings readily available can keep your operatories functioning smoothly and help you avoid costly service calls.
Remember, at American Dental Accessories, we’re here to support your practice and make your life easier. If you need any assistance or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Make sure to visit our website here for more information.
Let’s keep those smiles sparkling!
This article was originally published on Practice Tips Newsletter by American Dental Accessories. Adapted with permission.