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Scrub, Lube, Run, Wipe, Sterilize, Repeat: The Importance of Handpiece Maintenance


Handpiece maintenance—not a fun job in a busy practice. But if you are budget and investment conscious, it should be high on the list of the most important functions performed in the dental office.

When the clinician is finished with each patient, the assistant should follow the steps outlined below exactly, according to Linda Wise, the owner of Wise Dental Repair. “This is very important because autoclaving is such a harsh environment for handpieces. Following these steps will help keep the turbines up and running longer,” she advises.

Linda tells her customers that after autoclaving, they should re-lubricate and run their handpieces for 30 seconds to clear out any excess oil before using them again. “If you don’t when a handpiece comes out of the harsh environment of the autoclave, it’s like starting a car without oil,” Linda warns. “If the excess oil is properly wiped off, it will not interfere with any applications like bonding material.”   

Linda created this list of steps for her clients based on her years of experience and the condition of the handpieces she'd see when they came in for repairs. She points out that Step 5 is critical. “The handpiece has to be completely cooled off after autoclaving before being re-lubed,” Linda stresses. “If they are not completely cool, it will do further damage to the turbines. If you put cool fluid in a hot handpiece, it will crack the turbine inside. So it’s very important to wait until the autoclave has gone through a dry cycle, and has cooled off. And don’t ever run water on them to cool them off. I know a lot of offices are busy and try to find shortcuts, but it just winds up doing more damage to the handpiece.”

Linda swears that if you follow these 8 steps, and always reapply lubricant (such as Syntek, available from Wise) and run the handpiece for 30 seconds again before using it on the next patient, it will protect your handpiece, as well as your investment.


 Proper Procedure for the Maintenance of High-Speed Handpieces
1. Scrub outside of handpiece to remove debris from use.
2. Lubricate handpiece prior to sterilization – use a high velocity lubricating spray.
3. Run handpiece for 30 seconds, purging all lubricants.
4. Wipe outside of handpiece with alcohol gauze to remove oil, paying special attention to fiber optics.
5. Sterilize following manufacturer's recommended procedures. Let cool completely.
6. Lubricate again before use.
7. Run handpiece 30 seconds, purging all lubricants.
8. Wipe outside of handpiece with alcohol gauze to remove oil, paying special attention to fiber optics.


Remember, you cannot over-lubricate high-speed handpieces!



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