One of the most common problems I see in the handpiece repairs that I do, is the lack of a dental handpiece lubrication system, or the lack of correct handpiece maintenance. Now, I wish I could write this post for you to read and never have a single issue with your handpieces ever again. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to prevent your handpieces from never-ever breaking. However, the difference between offices that follow maintenance and care protocols and the offices that don’t, is massive.

Most offices that use the correct maintenance and care will see handpieces breakdown every 18-24 months. Offices that use incorrect protocols? Well, they see handpiece breakdowns every 4-6 months! Handpiece maintenance and care is the single most important thing that you can do in order to attain the most efficient handpieces in your office. I am here to help guide you through the correct ways, and secrets that will help your office achieve the greatest handpiece maintenance and care!

Step 1: Wash

You wash everything else in the office in order to keep it clean, why wouldn’t you wash your handpieces? There’s no reason to stop there and let them build up gunk and grime. Not only does it keep them nice and clean, but it helps break down the bacteria to further ensure they will be completely sterilized. No, you don’t HAVE to, but it sure helps. I work on handpieces that have never been wiped or clean, and they are GROSS! They have premature shell damage, lose their pretty color and turn black, brown, or gray, and they build up corrosion earlier. Washing them solves that.

How do you wash them? It is very simple! Once the Dr. is done using the handpiece, the first step should be to wipe the handpiece down externally with a disinfectant wipe. This ensures that any biomatter on the handpiece is broken down and will not linger. After that, you can take a toothbrush, dip it in soapy water, and gently brush the shell of the handpiece to remove anything that is stuck onto it. Now you can take a dry cloth, or paper towel, and wipe the handpiece dry; make sure there is nothing left on the handpiece, as it will likely be much harder to remove after sterilization.

Whatever you do, do not submerge the handpiece in water, detergent, solution, or ultrasonic scalers. This will immediately cause handpiece issues, and they will need to be repaired ASAP. If you have any questions, contact us about dental handpiece services.

Step 2: Handpiece Cleaner

One thing to note is that some lubricants are a cleaner/lubricant in one; this is something you should check before buying just handpiece specific cleaner, as it does the same thing, as well as lubricating at the same time. However, more time than not, your lubricant is just lubricant, and your handpieces still need cleaned using a cleaner. This is the most common step that is skipped over, and greatly increases the longevity of your handpieces. Most handpiece cleaners are in the form of an aerosol spray, which make them easy and quick to use.

The first step in this… step, is to find your handpiece air line (applicable in motors and highspeed handpieces). If you have a handpiecethat screws onto your air and water hose, flip it over. The handpiece has 2 very small holes, one large hole, and one medium hole. The handpiece air drive line is the medium sized hole. If your handpiece is a quick-disconnect type, all you need is a screw on adapter that you can easily screw onto the cleaner aerosol can.

All you have to do now is spray the handpiece cleaner into the handpiece for 2-3 seconds. I would recommend holding the head of the handpiece into a trash can or into a paper towel as it all will spray/leak out. Once you are done, insert a bur and run the handpiece over a paper towel or trash can until all of the cleaner is cleared out of the handpiece.

Step 3: Lubricate! (the most important step)

This step is the most important step in the maintenance of handpieces. You can get away with skipping the others (I hope you don’t), but whatever you do, don’t skip this one! Handpieces need lubricant to protect them from the extreme temperatures reached in the sterilizers.

Without lubricant protecting them, they can get damaged prematurely from the heat. If you ever question if you are lubing your handpieces enough, a simple answer is no. You can never over-lubricate a handpiece, but you can definitely under lubricate. When in doubt, use more, but as long as you have lubricant coming out of the head when you are flushing it out, you have enough.

There are a couple different types of handpiece lubricants that you can use to lube your handpieces. Some come in lubricant droppers that you hold upside down and the lubricant will slowly drip out. Other lubricants are an aerosol spray, just like the cleaner mentioned previously. Regardless of which one you have in the office, the way to use them is very similar!

Just like with the cleaner above, spray the lubricant into the air drive, or the handpiece quick-disconnect hole (using the correct adapter), for 2-3 seconds. If you are using a dropper, drop 3-4 drops of lubricant into the handpiece. Plug the handpiece in and insert a bur; run for 10-15 seconds until no more lubricant is expeling. And you’re done, the most important step really is that simple.

Step 4: Sterilize Correctly

Once the handpiece is ready for sterilization the hard part (if you would even call them that) is over! Insert the handpieces into a sterilizable packaging, and sterilize to manufacturers recommendation, using their recommended process, sterilize the handpiece.

The second most important step in this process is the easiest one; just let the sterilizer do what it is supposed to! Sterilizers have a built in dry cycle, so do not pull out the handpiece prematurely before this is complete! I know many people think that it is a waste of time, and they need those handpieces, but the dry cycle is there for a reason. Not only do the sterilizers need their internal elements to cool down before the next use, but the handpieces need to as well. If you run a handpiece while it is still warm, it will almost immediately cause damage. If you pull out a handpiece that is still warm and you put it under cold water to speed up the cooling process; then you have a lack of handpieces and you should buy more! It is recommended to use a handpiece no more than 3 times in a single day.

Different Types of Handpieces, and When you Should Maintain

As you know, handpieces come in many different shapes and sizes. The chart below will help you create a dental handpiece maintenance system based on their type. If you have endodontic attachments/drivers, you can pertain to the category for high speed handpieces.

Every Time Once a Week Once a Month Never
Highspeed Handpieces

X

“LubeFree” Highspeed Handpieces

X

Electric Attachments

X

Low Speed Motors

X

Prophy Motors

X

“LubeFree” Low Speed Motors

X

Low Speed Attachments

X

Low Speed Heads

X

 

I hope this post was able to help you with your handpiece maintenance! With proper maintenance, your handpieces are very likely to last much longer. Even when they do break, you can save money on dental handpiece repairs if they are being maintained properly. If your handpieces are feeling sluggish, not spinning correctly, or seem broken; please begin a repair order. We are happy to help!