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Handpiece preventative care and maintenance tips to ensure maximum usage

Handpieces, by no question, are one of the most used tools in a dental practice. Maintaining them by following a proper routine will prevent damage and costly repairs. In most cases, handpiece failure is usually caused by skipping cautionary protocol and cleaning.  Proper and preventative maintenance will allow a hand piece to reach its maximum life span before replacement. If a proper cleaning routine fails to be set in place, investing in a new hand piece after failure will not stop the issue from persisting, if poor maintenance is the cause.  A similar situation will follow in the near future, if a practice is not equipped with the correct knowledge on caring for their handpieces. To slim your chances of a handpiece failing in between patients, regularly practice these important preventative care methods on all handpieces:


  • Always set the proper PSI – A large portion of handpiece failure, is due to improper regulation of air pressure. Investing in a quality regulator can potentially save you the aftermath of an inaccurate reading. Never estimate the pressure setting. Most handpieces should not exceed 35 PSI but to be completely aware of the correct setting, check with the manufacturer.


  • Follow proper sterilization methods –Refer to your manufacturers suggestion before setting the temperature on a sterilization cycle. Remove bur before sterilizing. Avoid interrupting the autoclave cycle, especially if you are in a rush. Always allow the handpiece to completely cool before utilization. Following sterilization, bag handpiece/s in designated bags to keep them sterile afterwards.



  • Always make sure to properly clean your handpieces before sterilization. Regularly clean parts. Keeping a regular weekly cleaning of turbine, handpiece head, and chuck – will avoid clogging the handpiece, and any turbine failure. Every time air pressure is released, dirty water and air enter the handpiece. To clean, dip a small proximal brush in alcohol and insert it into the bur tube. Rotate around the area and repeat until you notice it comes out clean. Periodically maintain the housing by removing the turbine and using a q-tip dipped in alcohol to clean. A handpiece cleaner and lubricant should be used between patients. When it comes to servicing the push button spindle on a handpiece, a lubricant is not solely sufficient. A cleaner, and lubricant combo should be used. After lubricating, run your handpiece to ensure that the oil is flushed from the handpiece or use an air flush station. To ensure that all bearings are impacted, use pressurized air to push oil through the handpiece. Allow for time to thoroughly dry.



Incidents to avoid: 

Intially setting pressure too high

Using a cheap regulator

Skipping sterilization and cleaning between patients

Setting improper or maximum temperature when sterilizing

Not cleaning before sterilizing

Not pushing oil out with air pressure

Spray or immerse any handpieces in disinfectant

Using cold sterilants

Applying water to cool a handpiece

Using “off brand”, undesignated parts for replacements



Following these basic guidelines when it comes to caring for your handpieces, will save you both cost and frustration. The internal parts in a handpiece are similar to an automobile, in the regards of maintenance. A lotting time to oil, and clean, while avoiding incidents that can cause damage, will allow you to utilize maximum “miles” with minimum repairs.