By Danny Chan
As with most next generation dental units, Finnish company Planmeca’s range of Planmeca Sovereign treatment systems are digitally enhanced works of art as conveyed by their futuristic designs, luxurious upholstery, eye candy touchscreen monitors and snazzy multimedia interfaces. Yet they stand alone, even amongst higher-end contemporaries, as the only fully motorised and wirelessly automated treatment units on the market. But what is power without control? This ‘Ferrari of dental units’ positions dentists in the driver’s seat with an intuitive interface that promises optimum handling and fully automated control over the basic floor-mounted unit and its integrated parts.
As if issuing a bold statement on the importance of hygiene control in the midst of a possible flu pandemic, the Planmeca Sovereign boasts 100 per cent hands-free operation to minimize cross infection. As cross-contamination may occur when the dentist operates knobs and handles with contaminated hands, the various controls are foot-operated. The unit, chair and cuspidor are fully motorized while its automated movements, controlled by the computer, are not limited mechanically. The unit is operated via a graphical user interface (GUI) – running on Planmeca Romexis software within an integrated multimedia PC – and a wireless foot control. Ethernet and USB connectivity allows flexible interfacing with other equipment and information networks.
Unlike most treatment units, the Planmeca Sovereign adapts to the dentist and not the other way around. For example, there are three versions of the unit featuring different instrument delivery systems: Over-the-patient with balanced arms (Planmeca Sovereign Balance); over-the-patient with hanging tubes (Planmeca Sovereign Reach); and side delivery (Planmeca Sovereign Side).
The motorized left/right conversion makes it possible to transform the dental unit symmetrically from right-handed to left-handed use. During this operation,
the base motor and the chair swivel motor operate simultaneously to move the cuspidor to the opposite side of the patient chair. Further, the basic unit also swivels, allowing it to be positioned in different directions for specific types of treatment such as surgery or prosthetics.
For increased patient comfort, the shell and cushion are shaped to meet the morphological requirements of all types of patients. Positions may be set to preference, for instance, the backrest lowered to horizontal position, the seat raised to 15°, and the legs raised 6° above the horizontal – to an optimum reclining position known as the Trendelenburg. All movements are automated thus eliminating the need for hydraulic pumps or cranking of levers.
At the heart of improved ergonomics and enhanced automation is the central control CAN digital messaging system. CAN is a serial bus system used to control the various modules, especially suited for networking “intelligent” devices as well as sensors and actuators within a system. This messaging system, which was chosen for its reliability, has been approved for use in the automotive industry to control brake-locking protection systems on cars. At this technological level, failure is unacceptable.
For all its bells and whistles, a system is only as good as its ease of operation which in the case of Planmeca Sovereign, is underscored by the user-friendliness of its Graphical User Interface. The GUI shortens the learning curve with easily programmable settings with an information window that gives explicit details of each function.
The personal settings can be stored on a USB memory stick allowing them to
be instantly programmed to any other Planmeca Sovereign unit. Alternatively, the user settings stored on a memory stick can be inserted to any other Planmeca Sovereign for immediate use (dispensing the need to store the settings in the unit memory).
Finally, the context-sensitive help menu on the interface provides a clear and well-sorted user support manual.
From the ergonomical design of the unit to the motorised automation of its satellite parts, the Planmeca Sovereign demonstrates a high degree of adaptability to its working environment, the dentist and patient. The user interface, designed in consultation with a world leader in IT design, imbues this quality, by rendering the man-machine communication process logical and natural, and mapped along well established rules. The result is an intelligent, state-of-the-art dental unit that is always “responsive” and up to the task at hand.