Title:
Patient-relaxing dental chair
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A dental chair with a massage unit built into a cushioned patient-contacting portion, for example the backrest, without altering the ergonomic surface contours or hygienic surface of the chair.



Inventors:
Franke, Walter M. (Honor, MI, US)
Application Number:
10/379275
Publication Date:
09/09/2004
Filing Date:
03/04/2003
Assignee:
FRANKE WALTER M.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A61G15/12; A61H1/00; A61G15/00; A61H23/02; (IPC1-7): A47C7/62
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
D ADAMO, STEPHEN D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
NORTHERN MICHIGAN PATENT LAW, PLC (TRAVERSE CITY, MI, US)
Claims:
1. A dental chair having a patient-contacting cushion portion with a hygienic surface cover following a predetermined patient-contacting contour, the improvement comprising a massage unit located in the patient-contacting cushion portion under the surface cover, the massage unit capable of transmitting a massage to a dental patient reclining against the patient-contacting cushion portion.

2. The dental chair of claim 1, wherein the massage unit is placed in the cushion portion in a manner following the patient-contacting contour.

3. The dental chair of claim 1, wherein the massage unit is located in a backrest portion of the dental chair.

4. The dental chair of claim 3, wherein the backrest is separate from other patient- contacting cushion portions of the chair.

5. The dental chair of claim 1, wherein the massage unit is controlled by a patient-operable control unit.

6. The dental chair of claim 1, wherein the massage unit is complemented by a heat unit in the patient-contacting portion.

7. The dental chair of claim 1, wherein the massage unit is located in the patient-contacting portion under the surface cover in a manner leaving the predetermined patient-contacting contour unchanged.

8. The dental chair of claim 1, wherein the patient-contacting portion comprises a cushioned core, and the massage unit is recessed into the cushioned core.

9. The dental chair of claim 7, wherein an additional thin cushioning layer is placed over the recessed massage unit between the surface cover and the cushioned core.

10. The dental chair of claim 9, wherein the additional thin cushioning layer is a uniform layer over the cushioned core following the predetermined patient-contacting contour.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention is in the field of chairs for dental patients.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Trips to the dentist are often a little stressful for the patient, even with an excellent and confidence-inspiring dentist. The mouth and teeth are full of nerve endings, and most dental work, even routine cleanings and other treatments, can involve some level of discomfort if only because instruments are being manipulated in the mouth. Some people take this in stride, others can be tense and apprehensive. And because dental work often requires a fine, precise, delicate touch on the part of the dentist and/or hygienist, it is important that the patient be relaxed since a tense patient can make the job of the dentist/hygienist more difficult, thereby possibly affecting the patient's comfort and even the dental work itself.

[0003] Recently a greater emphasis has been placed on the patient's comfort and state of mind, and dentists and their organizations seem to have an increased awareness of the importance of environment on the patient. Suggestions for improving the dentist office environment to relax the patient have included the use of softer lighting, music, gourmet coffees and teas, relaxation-inspiring art, warm towels, and even the use of massage pads on the dental chair.

[0004] Despite this “soft” approach to the patient's comfort, however, it must be remembered that the practice of dentistry is a medical science involving great skill and technique, and that such suggestions for improving the patient's comfort and state of mind must take a back seat to the demanding and precise requirements of the tasks being performed on the patient, whether routine cleanings or complicated oral surgery.

[0005] For example, the use of massage pads on the dental chair has been tried and found to be impractical. The pads, which are commercially-available, self-contained cushions or mats designed to be easily attached to most seats and chairs, are fabric covered and cannot be cleaned effectively or conveniently enough to meet the appropriate hygienic standards from patient to patient. The ergonomics of dental chairs are extremely important from the standpoint of the dentist/hygienist, and massage pads disrupt the positioning of the patient in the chair, making it surprisingly difficult to properly and comfortably work on a patient. Massage pads also interfere with the frequently necessary adjustments to the dental chair and the patient in the chair.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0006] The present invention is a patient-relaxing dental chair that includes a massage unit built into a cushioned, patient-contacting portion of a standard dental chair, leaving the hygienic surface texture and ergonomic surface contours of the chair unaltered. The preferred location for the massage function is in the backrest portion of a standard dental chair. Other portions of the dental chair can be provided with massage units, with the possible exception of the headrest, but the backrest has been found to be the most effective location.

[0007] The massage unit may be supplemented with a heat unit for relaxing warmth. Multiple massage and/or heat units can be provided in a single portion of the chair.

[0008] In a preferred embodiment, the foam cushion core of the patient-contacting portion has recesses formed therein, shaped to receive a massage unit in a flush or recessed manner, with the foam maintaining a closely conforming fit to the massage unit. The recess can retain a flap of material to cover the inserted massage unit, or a thin layer of additional foam or similar padding can be added over the foam core to be compressed between the core and the cushion's covering (usually a vinyl type material). Heat units, pressure switches, and associated structure can be added to the cushion in like manner.

[0009] The massage unit is preferably controlled by the patient, for example using a handheld remote control.

[0010] These and other features and advantages of the invention will become apparent upon further reading of the specification in light of the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0011] FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of a standard dental chair.

[0012] FIG. 1A is a rear perspective view of the dental chair of FIG. 1.

[0013] FIG. 1B is a side elevation view of the chair of FIG. 1 with a massage pad added and a patient reclining in the chair.

[0014] FIG. 2 is a side elevation view of the chair of FIG. 1 modified according to the invention, with a patient in the chair receiving a massage from the backrest.

[0015] FIG. 3 is a partially exploded front perspective view of the chair of FIG. 2, modified with a massage unit in the backrest according to the invention.

[0016] FIG. 4 is a front elevation view of the backrest of FIG. 3, with an internal arrangement of massage and associated structure illustrated in phantom beneath the hygienic surface cover.

[0017] FIG. 5 is a front perspective view of the backrest of FIG. 4, with the cover and cushioning foam layers shown partially removed to reveal massage units and associated structure.

[0018] FIG. 5A is a side elevation view of the layers of the backrest of FIG. 4, and the massage unit and associated structure inserted therein.

[0019] FIG. 5B is an end perspective view of one of the massage units from the backrest of FIG. 4, with the foam covering partially removed.

[0020] FIG. 5C is an end perspective view of a pressure switch from the backrest of FIG. 4, with the foam covering partially removed.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0021] FIGS. 1, 1A and 1B show a typical dental chair 10, which in standard fashion has the following patient-contacting portions supported on a pedestal 20 secured to the floor with a stable base 22: a headrest 12, a backrest 14, an elongated seat 16 with toeboard portion 16a, and armrests 18. These patient-contacting portions are adjustable and separately articulated with manual and/or motor adjustments in known manner. Power adjustment mechanisms are usually located in pedestal 20, powered from a standard electrical supply, for example through a floor-mounted power/control unit 24, and controlled by the dentist or the patient 32 through foot-operated controls 24a and/or a handheld remote control unit 26.

[0022] FIG. 1A shows the rear of the backrest 14, supported on a metal or plastic frame 30 having a column 30a for adjustment mechanisms or linkages and any electrical wiring needed for the mechanisms or linkages that are powered.

[0023] FIG. 1B illustrates a patient 32 reclining on chair 10. The contours of headrest 12, backrest 14, and seat 16 are carefully designed to comfortably support the patient without strain or pressure points, and to position the patient so that the dentist and hygienist may work conveniently and comfortably on the patient. The importance of the dentist's comfort and convenient access to the patient should not be underestimated, and dental chair manufacturers are believed to design and advertise their chairs with these factors in mind. In accordance with a prior art suggestion, a massage pad 34 is shown laid on chair 10 in an effort to make patient 32 even more comfortable. However, it will be readily apparent that whatever questionable effect the pad 34 may have on the patient's comfort, the thick pad significantly alters the carefully designed contours of chair 10, thereby altering the positioning of the patient and the dentist's access and comfort. It has been found that the use of such pads is neither practical nor comfortable for the dentist. It has further been found that the fabric coverings of such massage pads are not easily or properly cleaned between patients, whereas the smooth, vinyl-like coverings of dental chairs are designed for quick and simple cleaning and asepsis.

[0024] FIGS. 2 and 3 illustrate dental chair 10 modified according to the invention with a backrest 114 having an internal massage mechanism that leaves the contours and surface of the backrest and the rest of the patient-contacting portions of the chair unchanged. Backrest 114 can be a standard backrest like that shown above at 14, subsequently modified to contain a massage mechanism, or can be built at the factory with the massage mechanism already in place. Although other patient-contacting portions of chair 10 can be modified or built with similar internal massage features, backrest 114 is the preferred portion of the chair for this feature because of its primary support of the patient's back and shoulders and its typical separation/separability from the other portions of the chair. The separation of backrest 114 from headrest 12 insulates the headrest (and the patient's mouth) from vibration, which would interfere with the dental work.

[0025] FIG. 2 shows patient 32 receiving a relaxing massage from backrest 114 as he reclines in chair 10. FIG. 3 shows backrest 114 removed from frame 30 and modified with an internal massage mechanism. Although a preferred embodiment of a massage mechanism for backrest 114 is described below, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that arrangements and components other than those shown in this preferred example can be used to provide backrest 114 with a massage capability.

[0026] FIG. 4 schematically shows one possible and preferred layout of massage components built into backrest 114, with two massage motors 116, a heating pad 118, and a pressure-activated heating pad switch 119 turned on by the weight of a patient against the backrest. The illustrated vertically-strung placement of components has been found to work well in the cupped contours of a typical backrest, although other placements are possible, and will depend somewhat on the contours of the backrest 114 and the desired massage and heat placement points on the patient's back.

[0027] FIG. 5 shows the outer, patient-facing layers of backrest 114 partly removed to display the components underlying the positional schematic of FIG. 4 and the manner in which they are mounted in the backrest. Massage motors 116 are of the type found in commercially available massage pads and cushions, nested in correspondingly-shaped cutouts 114d formed in the thick foam core 114c of backrest 114. Each motor is supplied with electric power through conventional wiring 115, and operates in on/off modes and optionally at different massage levels, for example by adjusting the speed of the motor by regulating the power supplied through wiring 115 in known fashion. Control of the massage motors preferably rests with the patient, for example by incorporating on/off and speed controls in handheld remote 26 shown in FIG. 1A, or by using a separate remote control of the type often supplied with commercially available massage pads.

[0028] Nesting or embedding the massage units in a closely conforming fit in the foam of a cushioned portion of the heavy, stable dental chair tends to dampen excessive vibration, such that the massage received by the patient is gentle and relaxing and does not induce vibration in the patient that might interfere with the dental work.

[0029] Heat pad element 118 is likewise of the type found in commercially available massage pads and cushions, and may comprise an array of resistively-heated wire or wires 118a. The wire 118a may be secured to a pad or sheet of material 118b designed to face the patient and transfer the heat generated in an even, comfortable manner. Heat element 118 is essentially flat, so can be secured directly to the face of foam core 114c and/or to a thin overlayer 114b placed between backrest cover 114a and the components in core 114c. Overlayer 114b may be a thin extra layer, for example compressible foam, added to core 114c and conforming to the surface contour of the core, or may be a thin layer of core 114c cut away to act as a flap covering the massage components. Uniform, thin overlayer 114b cushions the massage units and distributes the massage more evenly over the backrest while maintaining the ergonomic surface contour of the backrest.

[0030] Heat pad element 118 can be turned on manually through a remote switch like that used for massage motors 116, or can be pressure-activated by a switch such as that shown at 119, also of the type found in commercially available massage pads and cushions. Illustrated switch 119 is shown nested in a cutout 114f, but with its upper surface preferably slightly above the surface of core 114c to ensure good contact with the patient's back through the cover 114a and foam overlayer 114b. Switch 119 is also shown with an extra piece of foam 119e between the upper surface of the switch unit and overlayer 114b to further improve switch-activating pressure from the patient's back without decreasing patient comfort.

[0031] FIGS. 5A-5C further illustrate the layered arrangement of massage components and backrest layers, and details of massage motors 116 and pressure switch 119. The thickness of the motors 116 is preferably less than or equal to the thickness of backrest foam core 114c. The motors are for example eccentric motors which when rotated cause their housings to vibrate at the desired massage frequency and amplitude. The illustrated pressure switch 119 is a simple set of leaf contacts 119a secured to an insulative plate 119b, with their contact ends spaced vertically and with the uppermost contact end forced into circuit-closing contact with the lower contact end when a patient leans back against the backrest. Foam spacers 119c and foam-covered “pressure plate” 119d serve to cushion and insulate the metal contacts from the backrest cover and the patient's back.

[0032] It will again be understood that the particular set of massage components described above, and their particular arrangement in backrest 114, can vary without departing from the scope of the invention as set forth in the following claims, and will be apparent to those skilled in the art now that I have set forth the foregoing example. It will also be understood that the invention can be applied to different styles of dental chair, and to different cushioned portions of a dental chair, although it is probably not desirable to build a massage function into the headrest portion as it may transmit too much vibration to the patient's mouth as the dentist is working. The degree and amount of massage, the specific mechanisms by which it is applied through the cushioning of the dental chair, and other variables can be selected on an individual basis according to preference, so long as they do not interfere with the dental work being performed on the patient. I accordingly claim: