Sterilizing and maintaining your dental handpieces

Recent blog posts have covered the history of sterilization, how to design a sterilization space and how to choose the right sterilization equipment. Once you have the right sterilization equipment, proper use is extremely important.

The high-speed handpiece is one of the most essential pieces of equipment in the dental office. When a handpiece goes down, it can put you at a standstill until it’s repaired or replaced. Following proper maintenance and sterilization procedures can prevent this from happening.

When a handpiece is maintained properly, it should function well for more than a year before needing repair. When you take the time and energy to properly care for your dental handpieces, not only are you protecting your investment, you’re providing peace of mind knowing that you are avoiding the risk of cross-contamination among patients.

Each manufacturer has its own guidelines for maintaining equipment. Most handpieces need to be removed from the coupler and have the bur taken out. It should then be scrubbed under running water, and the exterior should be wiped down with a soft cloth or sponge. It’s not necessary to wipe the outside of the handpiece with a chemical disinfectant, because the sterilization process takes care of this.

It’s important to lubricate your handpieces before sterilizing. Options for lubricating include aerosol lubricants that “push” oil to the handpiece head, and oil droppers, both of which require connecting the handpiece to a purging system to flush out excess solution and debris. An automatic lubrication system can be purchased to ensure proper cleaning and lubrication of handpieces, without the need to manually scrub and wipe down each handpiece.

When the handpiece is free of excess fluids and debris, it can be sterilized according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.

At the Patterson National Repair Center, it is estimated that 40% to 50% of handpiece repairs are due to lack of proper maintenance and care. When you take the time to care for your dental handpieces, you avoid the risk of cross-contamination among patients and protect your investment for years to come.