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Follow These Crucial Tips for Care and Maintenance of Dental Handpieces


 

You could purchase the most expensive, high-performing dental handpiece on the market, but that value disappears when you don’t maintain this essential tool of the trade.


In general, this holds true for your entire dental practice. It doesn’t matter the size or quality of your practice  – it'll suffer if it's not well maintained!

Properly cleaning and maintaining your handpieces will help to extend their lifespan, reduce the risk of infection, and keep your practice running smoothly. For the best care and maintenance of all your dental handpieces, follow these tips.

 

Considerations for Handpiece Sterilization


Handpieces are the most important (and often most expensive) tools in your dental practice. Know how to sterilize handpieces properly so that their lifespan can be extended and cross-infection can be prevented.


1. Always Autoclave Between Patients


Several studies show that non-autoclaved high and low speed handpieces can cause cross-contamination.


One study in particular performed 160 tests with two handpiece types where the prophy angle experienced contamination. This resulted in the motor being contaminated 20% of the time.


Then, when the other motor was contaminated, 47% of the 160 samples saw microbes transmitted to the prophy angle.


Another study assessed 20 subjects where 3-quarters of the 420 samples gathered from low-speed handpiece systems were contaminated with oral flora.


The primary takeaway here is to never reuse a handpiece without autoclaving.

Following this advice keeps your practice clean and your patient’s/staff safe.


2. Ensure Your Handpiece is Sterilization-Friendly


Ensure your handpiece is autoclavable. More specifically, it should have a smooth, sleek design that doesn’t retain debris or bacteria.


Know that a titanium finish can handle sterilization chemicals long-term, whereas a chrome plate won’t hold up over time.


Lastly, the finish on your handpiece should be seamless, without any gap between outer casings.


3. Know How to Sterilize Your Handpieces


Follow these steps in order when sterilizing your handpiece:


Cleaning the surface:

  • Remove contaminants from the internal water line by flushing water through the handpiece inside the operatory for 30 seconds.
  • Clean off any bioburden in the sterilization area. Do so using a brush under running water with a mild detergent.

Dry the handpiece:

  • This is 100% necessary when using a chemiclave sterilizer since excess water causes oxidation in the chamber, leading to corrosion.

Handpiece lubrication:

  • Spray oil into the drive airline with the proper lubricating tip, spraying until oil expels from the handpiece head.

Get rid of excess oil:

  • When you’re done lubricating the handpiece, run it to evenly distribute the oil through the bearing. This process also gets rid of excess oil.
  • Run the handpiece for 20 seconds after installing a bur in the chuck. And DO NOT use bur blanks.

Ensure fibre-optic surfaces are clean:

  • Remove excess oil and debris from fibre-optic surfaces with alcohol and a Q-Tip.
  • Put the handpiece in a paper/plastic combination bag.

It’s finally time to sterilize:

  • When autoclaving your handpiece, manufacturer guidelines must be followed to the letter.
  • The sterilizer must process entirely through the dry cycle.

Drying your handpiece:

  • Place the bag (now with a handpiece inside) paper-side up atop the sterilizer, so it dries completely.

Other Handpiece Maintenance Tips


Maintenance and sterilization tend to overlap, but this section will highlight aspects of handpiece care that will help it last longer.


Considerations during cleaning and sterilization:

  • Soft bristle brushes won’t damage the product.
  • Hot water can cause blood coagulation inside the instrument, leading to bearing/clamp blockage. So, only use cold or lukewarm water.
  • Chemicals or abrasives will damage the handpiece’s outer surface, potentially removing the inner layer of lubrication.
  • Instruments shouldn’t be immersed in disinfectant liquids since these corrode mechanical parts almost immediately.
  • Disinfectant wipes and alcohol will cause steam to penetrate through the holes inside your instruments, leading to near-instant damage.

Considerations for lubrication:

  • 100% synthetic aerosol oils are a must, and they need to be of high quality.
  • With the correct oil, you’ll extend the lifespan of your handpiece, all at a price no greater than what you’ll pay for standard mineral oils.

Other considerations:

  • Follow the manufacturer guidelines when it comes to air pressure, and don’t exceed the suggested amount. Heeding these instructions prevents damage to your turbine.
  • Only use manufacturer-approved tools when your handpiece needs tweaks or quick fixes. Or, just send your handpiece to the manufacturer for repairs.
  • Before sterilizing, remove the bur and release chuck levers to prevent spring or lever compression. This will defend against damage that shortens the life of the handpiece.
  • A chuck needs its own specific care. Manually and directly applying lubricant should work.

 

Get the Most Out of Your Equipment


With these tips, you’ll keep your practice clean and safe while maximizing the value of your handpiece by extending its overall performance and lifespan.


At first, it might take some adjusting to remember all these tips. But you’ll quickly find these are relatively small efforts that lead to massive improvements in the quality of dental care you provide!

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