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Why I think the world is rejecting the dental spittoon

Photograph: A-dec
Nick Olive, Territory Manager

Nick Olive, Territory Manager

Mon. 16 August 2021


A lot has changed in the world over the last 18 months and the dental industry is no different. You have probably heard of the growing trend to move away from the use of dental spittoons. In some countries, such as the United States, the use of dental spittoons has been declining for years and the majority of private and government clinics in America no longer use dental spittoons. We now see the rest of the world starting to move in this direction.

Why are so many dental professionals now choosing to work without spittoons? Here are 5 main reasons:

1. Hygiene

The ongoing pandemic has proved that hygiene has never been more important, especially within a dental surgery. 

The ‘rinse and spit’ process involved in some dental appointments is an obvious issue when it comes to reducing cross-contamination. Patients can miss and spit on the floor, down the side of the chair, or even on the dental assistant!

Studies indicate the spittoon as having one of the highest concentrations of pathogens in the dental office. To adequately clean the spittoon between each patient takes a long time and evidence suggests that even with a good cleaning protocol, the spittoon remains the biggest cross-infection risk in dental surgery (Marques et al. 2016).

Instead, try to rinse for the patient with a 3:1 and high quality HVE suction from the treatment position. This can be done if you’re working 2-handed or 4-handed. If you are working with this method, consider a ‘taste free’ water treatment product that helps to maintain water quality within your dental unit and enhance the patient experience. 

If your patients still like to rinse at the end of an appointment, you could consider a funnel attached to the HVE suction system which the patient can hold close to their mouth - reducing the risk of spills and the associated cross-contamination risk. Patients can also find this more comfortable than reaching for a spittoon. 

2. Efficiency

Save time for more appointments by reducing cleaning times and removing the need to rinse. 

Did you know it takes around 90 seconds to stop your procedure, raise your patient for a rinse and spit, and return to treatment? Multiply that by the number of patients you see per day and you may be surprised at how much time you lose every day for what is fast becoming an outdated ritual. 

Removing the spittoon improves ergonomics for the whole dental team and patients too by reducing unnecessary movements.

In a blind survey of dentists in France (who may or may not work with a -spittoon), 80% said working without a spittoon improves ergonomics in a surgery. 100% reported that asepsis is improved and 75% said patient comfort is improved!

Reduce the time, steps and effort in resetting the room between patients. If you don’t have a spittoon, no one needs to clean it! 

3. Reduce Costs 

The spittoon is a significant investment when you purchase new equipment. Removing the dental spittoon could save you around 15% of the cost of your equipment. Why not invest this saving in value by adding accessories such as intra-oral cameras and electric micromotors.  

You will find that you can achieve saving in other areas too. Think of removing the need for plastic cups, spittoon filters and cleaners. As well as reducing the ongoing cost of consumable items, you can reduce your impact on the environment as well. 

The absence of a spittoon also opens you up to more flexibility for surgery design including ‘off the chair’ solutions, changing patient access points, an easier left-right conversion for shared surgeries and the ability to create a larger working area for your dental nurse. 

4. Reduce Maintenance

Fewer parts to your dental chair reduce both service cost and downtime.  Without a spittoon, dental chairs have less tubing, solenoids and circuit boards, making them easier and quicker to install – and there is less to go wrong.  This also eliminates the risk of a mains water leak if you are using only a self-contained water system as recommended. Over the lifetime of your equipment, how much time and money could you save?

5. Design a room made for you 

The absence of a spittoon improves access for the dental nurse, allowing them to get closer to the equipment and patient, whilst creating space for easier patient entry and exit. Removing the spittoon improves aesthetics, allowing for a cleaner-looking, less-intimidating dental chair, which can help patients to feel more relaxed. When you design your operatory without a spittoon you are no longer dictated by restricted access points and service locations. 

1 thoughts on “Why I think the world is rejecting the dental spittoon”

  1. Lily Mustapa says:

    Reduce cost and time

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