7 Tips for Better Dental Handpiece Maintenance

Dental handpieces are hard-working tools with very delicate internal parts, which is why proper ongoing maintenance can make for the best possible performance and longevity. Here are seven tips to help avoid potential cross-contamination while ensuring the device delivers the best possible results during its lifespan.

1. Clean externally: Clean the outside casing of the handpiece, ideally with a soft- or medium-bristle brush with either alcohol or simple warm water. Don’t submerge the device in water or chemicals, and don’t place it in an ultrasonic cleaner.

2. Disinfect: If using a washing disinfector, remove the handpiece after the cleaning cycle is complete. Never leave it in the washer overnight or longer than the cycle requires.

3. Lubricate internally: A good quality oil should be inserted into the handpiece for approximately 2 seconds until the oil comes out of the head. Remember that you can never overlubricate the internal mechanisms of the device. Ideally, the spindle or chuck should be lubricated once a day, depending on the amount of use.

4. Expel debris: To ensure that lubricants don’t interfere with the patient experience, insert a bur and connect the handpiece to tubing for 10 to 20 seconds after oiling and before sterilization to remove any debris and excess oils. This will ensure the handpiece is sufficiently lubricated but clean internally so that no oil leaks out during procedures.

5. Sterilize: Remove the bur from the handpiece and wipe down the exterior and place it in a pouch and then into the autoclave. Sterilize each device according to manufacturer’s guidelines. Allow the handpiece to go through the dry cycle in the sterilizer (if there is one). Always remove the handpiece from the autoclave when the process is complete. Don’t leave it in the autoclave for longer than the cycle requires.

6. Cool and dry: After the handpiece is sterilized, remove it from the autoclave and store it with the head upright to let it cool and dry naturally. Never use a handpiece until it’s cooled down, and don’t run it under cold water.

7. Check air supply: If using an air-powered handpiece, check the air pressure going to the device. The pressure should never exceed 2.8 bar/40 psi. If it’s too high it can cause premature bearing failure. Check that the air is both clean and dry, and have a service engineer check the compressor and air/water filters in the dental unit on a regular basis.

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This originally appeared in the June issue of OnTarget.