Regular dental handpiece maintenance is an often-overlooked aspect of a well-run dental clinic. Investing in this aspect of your practice can have a positive impact on your reputation and bottom line.
Helping people is what drives you to be in the dental profession. It’s the source of your inspiration, pushing you to give your best every day.
Think of all the patients you’ve helped prevent or overcome conditions like gingivitis and periodontitis. Consider all the cosmetic services–like repairing a chipped tooth–you’ve provided, helping people feel better about their appearance.
As cliché as it sounds, every member of a dental practice should take pride in what they do.
However, the nitty gritty hard work that goes into running a successful dental practice is nowhere near as glamorous or romantic as anything we’ve discussed. Yet the most mundane processes can produce the most meaningful results if they are streamlined.
For instance, an often-overlooked aspect of a well-operated dental clinic is staying on top of your regular dental handpiece maintenance.
Is anybody going to write home about a well-maintained dental handpiece? Probably not.
But prioritizing this facet of your practice can help yield results–both financially and reputationally–that’ll leave you feeling pretty heroic when all is said and done.
The key to streamlined dental maintenance is keeping up with best practices.
You might already follow all the dental piece maintenance procedures discussed below. Still, verifying that you’re doing everything possible to get the most from your equipment is always beneficial.
With those factors in mind, we’ll delve into the ins and outs of scheduled dental piece maintenance.
We’d guess that nearly 100% of dental professionals are conscious of taking care of their equipment. After all, they want the best results for their patients.
Sadly, without a schedule, the human element of forgetfulness prevents some dental professionals from following the necessary protocols.
Regularly-scheduled maintenance ensures you won’t neglect any details. A clear schedule outlines the necessary tasks at the correct times, removing any guessing games from the equation.
Failing to create a schedule all but ensures that maintenance will be ad-hoc, while following a set schedule removes much of the human error from the equation. A busy day’s worth of stress won’t cause you to forget your necessary maintenance tasks because you’ll have a schedule to remind you.
Scheduling your regular maintenance will maximize your efficiency since it eliminates partial measures. Instead of performing 75% of the necessary maintenance (which would help to a degree), you’ll complete 100% (if not 110%) of the required tasks. No stone will be left unturned.
Due to the consistency and reliability of scheduling maintenance, you’ll optimize your handpiece’s lifespan. You’ll also drastically reduce infection risks and provide patients with the most efficient, effective care. More to the point, you’ll have high-functioning equipment that enables you to work at your best.
Setting daily, weekly, and monthly will ensure you’ll perform all the appropriate maintenance when it needs to be done.
Your daily maintenance tasks should start with flushing each syringe and dental handpiece with water. Then, after your handpiece dries, lubricate it before sterilizing it based on the manufacturer's recommendations. Ensure all nose cones, angles, etc., are lubricated between instances of use.
Disinfect all equipment you’ve used and flush all water lines attached to your handpiece whenever you’ve finished with a patient.
Suction cleaning solution should be inside the HVE and saliva injection tubes.
Be sure to thoroughly clean all of your practice’s delivery unit traps. Also, drain your ultrasonic cleaner and wipe it out entirely.
Frequently inspect your practice’s infectious waste containers. Clean and replace them whenever necessary.
Replace your delivery unit traps once per week. Check and replace the O-ring on your dental handpiece couplers if necessary.
All dental handpiece gaskets should be checked and replaced if required. Also, be sure to complete a once-weekly biological spore test in your sterilizers.
Lastly, inspect your office space and practice for potential safety hazards on a weekly basis.
Your practice’s plaster-based trap should be checked, cleaned, or replaced once every month. Give your model trimmer a thorough cleaning, too.
Inspect and clean the screens and cassettes used for panoramas each month. Additionally, you’ll need to test and clean your oxygen units (e.g., nitrous oxide units.)
Evaluate and clean your master trap once a month and replace it if necessary. All chairs in the patient rooms, the waiting area, and the office area should be cleaned, too. You’ll learn whether patient areas need cleaning by sitting in them.
Keeping records of your handpiece maintenance is vital to caring for your cherished dental instruments.
The benefits of a detailed dental handpiece maintenance log far outweigh the potential time it takes to keep it up to date.
An official log of all repairs and maintenance will inform you of all the necessary work that must be done on your handpiece. It will also let you know when work must be done.
Here’s a list of what you should enter into your maintenance log:
Really, you want to log as much information as possible into your maintenance records.
The regular sterilization and cleaning of your dental handpieces is a significant component of successful maintenance. Here’s why:
Clean and sterile handpieces prevent cross-contamination and infection among your patients.
In fact, experts suggest autoclaving for every patient. In one study, 160 tests (involving two handpiece types with a contaminated prophy angle) saw motor contamination 20% of the time.
Furthermore, microbes were transmitted to the prophy angle in 47% of the 160 samples when the other motor was contaminated.
A different study examined 20 patients. In this instance, there was a 75% oral flora contamination rate for the 420 samples taken from low-speed handpieces.
The numbers tell the story loud and clear–never reuse handpieces before autoclaving.
One mistake dental professionals make when cleaning and sterilizing their handpieces is failing to thoroughly clean them before putting them in the autoclave.
Plus, dental professionals sometimes remove their handpiece from the autoclave before the instrument is 100% sterilized. You must wait for the process to complete to avoid subjecting your patients to infectious bacteria.
Another issue arises when dental professionals use cold water to cool their handpiece if it gets too hot. Don’t ever do this! Cold water could cause irreparable damage that calls for a full-on replacement.
One last handpiece cleaning/sterilization faux-pas is forgetting to thoroughly clean the following components:
Failing to clean these areas means the job isn’t complete.
Dental handpiece maintenance is straightforward if you follow all the appropriate best-practice directions. That isn’t to say it’s easy. Staying on top of maintenance duties is hard work and requires that you remain accountable.
Fortunately, with the tips we’ve provided, you have the insights to ensure your dental handpiece maintenance remains focused and frequent.
You chose a career in dentistry to help people. Through your care and related services, you improve your patients’ quality of life and put smiles on their faces daily.
While your technical know-how will take you far in providing optimal oral care, it can’t do all the heavy lifting. All dental professionals require their equipment to function at its best to perform procedures with precision and the utmost safety.
The only way to ensure your equipment–such as your handpieces–performs at its peaks is through dedicated maintenance.
Sure–maintaining your equipment doesn’t offer the instant gratification of a smiling patient. But it’s a crucial part of a thriving dental practice’s foundation.