Dental handpiece maintenance

Dental Equipment
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Dental Express’ Martin Oats advises how to keep your dental handpiece running smoothly for longer

What could be a better-known tool of the dentist’s trade than their drill? Without a fully functional handpiece, there are many tasks a dentist will not be able to perform. This could lead to cancelled appointments, and the cost of repairing or replacing the equipment, not to mention the issue of safety.

A handpiece that is damaged or not functioning correctly represents a danger to patients. For example, if it overheats it could cause burns, which could potentially lead to patients requiring reconstructive surgery. Overheating would also pose a significant risk to the practitioner holding the device.

For so many reasons it is important that handpieces are well maintained. The following tips will help you take care of your handpiece and ensure it stays in the best condition for longer.

Autoclave: Keep your handpiece clean, and regularly autoclaved. Failure to do so risks the build-up of pathogens which can contaminate the handpiece. This poses a considerable risk for infection to both patients and the dental team. Never remove your handpiece from the autoclave before the drying cycle has finished, or before it has sufficiently cooled. If the handpiece is removed too soon, condensation may develop internally, leading to rust.

Burs: As well as using a high-quality bur that is up to the task, it is important to remember to only run a handpiece when the bur is in place, and to always remove the bur before sterilising the handpiece.

Chemicals: Chemical cleaners or wipes are not suitable for use with your handpiece before sterilisation – using them can result in a potentially harmful reaction when the chemicals are exposed to high temperatures inside an autoclave.

Lubrication: Ensure your handpiece is properly lubricated. Only the air hole which is linked directly to the turbine needs to be lubricated – the other holes are for air, water or exhaust, and can become blocked if lubricants are applied to them. After lubrication, run the handpiece briefly. This allows distribution of the lubricant to all necessary internal parts. Not doing this can result in the oil becoming sticky inside the mechanical parts, which might impair the instrument’s performance.

Pressure: When using your handpiece, avoid using excessive air pressure – this may reduce handpiece performance, and cause damage to the turbine bearings. It is important to remember that greater PSI does not equal greater torque.

Water: Don’t run your handpiece under water before sterilising; this will damage turbine components. Also, never submerge your handpiece in an ultra-sonic cleaner – submersion in fluid can cause significant mechanical or internal damage.

However well you maintain your handpiece there will come a time when it needs to be repaired or replaced. While maintaining equipment is every dentist’s duty, repair work should only be carried out by experts.

Dental Express (a trading division of Surgery Express LLP) offers expert service. With a free evaluation, same-day turnaround, and a guarantee on parts and labour it could be your best choice for handpiece repair.

For more information, visit , call 0800 707 6212 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Martin Oates is the sales and marketing development manager for Surgery Express. Martin has enjoyed a wide range of experience in both the dental and medical professions