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A dental handpiece is to a dentist what a paint brush is to an artist. For clinical practitioners and dental students alike, the handpiece is perhaps the most important of all instruments and equipment. From caries removal to cavity preparation, crown and bridge procedures to tooth trimming for veneers – the handpiece makes most treatments that take place in a dental office possible. Good quality handpieces don’t come cheap, which is why it is important for all practitioners to learn the correct ways to maintain them.
Dental handpiece maintenance can prolong the life of the equipment, making it work flawlessly for years at a stretch without giving the surgeon any problems. There are a number of steps involved in taking care of the handpiece on a daily and routinely basis which all clinicians must practise to save money that will otherwise be spent on repairing or replacing malfunctioning units.

How dental handpiece maintenance is done

Following are some of the most useful and effective ways in which you can maintain your dental handpiece. Regardless of the make or quality, these steps will help you make the most of your handpiece before you absolutely have to replace. 

  1. Know your handpiece 
    – In order to make sure you’re operating it correctly, you must take time to read the manual that comes with your dental handpiece thoroughly. Not all handpieces are manufactured the same, and therefore they should not be treated that way. If you’re not using it correctly, you can expect damages and malfunctions within weeks or even days.
  2. Control air pressure
    – Make sure that the air pressure you are using should not exceed 45PSI for slow speed handpieces, and 32PSI for high speed handpieces.
  3. Use Compatible tools
    – Do not use bur changing tools that are not compatible with your handpiece repeatedly. This can damage the unit over time.
  4. Use bur blanks 
    – Whether you are storing your handpiece after a day’s work, or shipping it out – always make sure you fit it with a bur blank firmly in place. This is to protect it from any damage.
  5. Lubrication 
    – One of the most important steps in dental handpiece maintenance is lubrication. Make sure you always place a couple of drops of oil into the intake tube of the handpiece, which is generally located at the bottom. This can be done daily, between patients. Once the oil has been dripped into the tube, operate the handpiece for about 10 seconds before proceeding with the next treatments.
  6. Exterior Cleaning 
    – To clean the exterior of your dental handpiece, only use an alcohol swab, or a swab of distilled water to wipe it down. Refrain from immersing the unit into a disinfectant, and also steer clear of tap water and detergents.
  7. Sterilization
    When you’re done seeing patients for the day, use a separate sterilization bag to place your handpiece in. Do not pack the unit with any other instrument. Sterilize in an autoclave between 120-135 degrees Celsius only, and do not exceed this temperature. Allow the handpiece to cool completely before using it on a patient.
  8. Repair with manufacture-made parts only
    – Should your dental handpiece ever need repairs, make sure you either send it directly to the manufacturer, or make sure that the person repairing it only uses the correct parts that are compatible with your unit.
  9. Clean turbine chuck
    It is important to clean the turbine chuck at least once weekly to ensure swift performance and uninterrupted efficiency. An interproximal brush dipped in alcohol can be used for this purpose.
  10. Never ignore the signs 
    – If your handpiece suddenly starts sounding a little different, or if you notice even the slightest change in its performance, never ignore it. You can always dial the manufacturer help-line to speak to an expert regarding the changes, or take the unit to your repair-man for professional help.

From the cheapest quality handpieces, to the most expensive ones in the market – you can make the most of your tools with a few maintenance steps.

Many clinicians are not aware of this, but dental handpiece manufacturers have experts always available to help customers with their purchases. Not only can you learn more about how you maintain the unit better, but you can also discuss any changes that you may be experiencing with it over time. It is always better to consult the manufacturer company for tips and repairs instead of simply opting for someone who is offering cheaper services. 

How long can a standard average quality dental handpiece last?

The lifespan of any handpiece depends directly upon how it is being used, stored and maintained. Experts recommend that these units should ideally be replaced every 5-7 years, but you may not have to do that if you maintain your dental handpieces according to the guidelines available in the manufacturer user manual. 

If you have lost your user manual, it always helps to speak to a customer service representative from the manufacturer company. Remember, once you have spent a considerable amount of money in purchasing it, you must also dedicate time and effort towards proper dental handpiece maintenance. From initial extracted tooth preparation practices at school, to zirconia crown preparations at clinics, you’ll be needing the trusty unit a lot as you continue to explore different fields of dentistry patient after patient for years to come.