Cliff's Notes

The Business of Dentistry

Dental Handpiece Maintenance “The Truth Behind Dental Handpiece Breakdown is Dirt”!

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It is true that sterilization does shorten the life of your handpieces, just like bad road conditions shorten the life of your car tires and shocks. But, unfortunately it can’t be avoided . However, by performing proper
maintenance on a routine basis you can maximize work time between repairs and reduce the
overall cost of operation.


When dental high-speed air driven handpieces run at full bore, they will turn at 350k-400k rpm. That’s pretty fast and according to the law of physics, friction heat will develop. When two metals with the same molecular structure rub against each other creating a lot of “friction heat” they tend to fuse or distort. That’s when it goes out for repair. If you don’t plan on using an Automatic Maintenance System, then your team has to know how to care for expensive pieces of critical equipment that you use every day and invest a lot of money
into.

A high-speed dental handpiece turbine has 4 basic parts. The chuck, race, ball bearings & impala. The chuck holds the bur and usually has a push-button spring style assembly that opens it to place a rotary instrument. They are designed to close to an ISO standard shank size and must be kept clean to work properly, a build-up of debris will cause a premature failure. The impala is the blade portion of the turbine. The blades catch the 32 psi air blast from the delivery system and spins the chuck. The impala shaft rides on ball bearings traveling through a track called a race. The ball bearings and the race are precision sized so that the impala assembly can turn freely at extreme speed for a prolonged period of time. Note, You have to lubricate the parts continuously. Use an Autoclavable lubricant after the dental procedure is complete and before sterilizing. The lubricant will protect the internal seals form the sterilizer’s excessive heat. That statement contradicts some older methods, however, just like your bonding agents evolve, so does synthetic lubrication. By using a quality lubricant you will clean and lubricate in one step.


Lube Free handpieces are just that, lube free. However, you still need to clean out the the chuck. A non lubricant cleaner has to be sprayed into the head of the handpiece after each use and before sterilization. An automatic system would not apply.


After the procedure, you need to clean your handpiece before autoclaving to remove any organic material. Also don’t forget the fiber optics as organic and other material can attach to the lens during autoclaving and reduce function. Do not use detergents, soaps or disinfectant wipes as they can damage the optics and the rubber “o” rings. Don’t be afraid of cleaning the handpiece in the sink. They are made to get wet, as long as you lubricate and purge before sealing in an autoclave pouch for sterilization. Purging will expel any water and dirt, protect the bearings during sterilization and have the handpiece ready for use from the pouch.

February 7, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“An Ounce of Prevention” Saves You Money!

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In the movie Major League Actor James Gammon, who played the team’s gravel-voiced manager Lou
Brown and explained the game of baseball in simple terms “you hit the ball, you catch the ball, you throw the ball”. Now we all know it is not that simple especially now in the Corona Virus Error but your dental equipment is not that much different. In simple terms, it needs regular maintenance and some TLC.

Broken down into “Lou Brown” terms it’s all about water and air. In a time when technology is all you hear about we tend to forget the basics, your dental equipment. The mechanicals you need to practice dentistry are often abused and get prematurely old due to lack of maintenance. Think about the “Panic Centers” and service them regularly.

The Panic Centers … The dark places where nobody wants to go. Your air compressor and vacuum system are the keys to your clinical dentistry. They are not the brain of the operation, they are the heart. If either one goes down you can’t do much dentistry and Hygiene is completely shut down. That’s when you panic!

Air Compressor … A dental air compressor is the heart of your practice and is specifically designed to deliver clean dry air. They are complex in design and have filters and purge valves that have to be cleaned annually. Oil-type compressors may need to have oil added or a complete oil change. Oil type compressors are not that common any more due to the oil vapor that leaves a residue buildup on the walls of the airlines. Most offices take the compressor for granted but think about what you would lose if it went down in the middle of the day. It’s not that expensive (a few hundred dollars) to have a small spare commercial compressor standing by. Look at it like an emergency generator that you picked up at a home store. For the several hours or a day that it takes to get the main system up and running you will still in business.

Vacuum Motors … There are all types of vacuum systems Do you know if you have a wet or dry pump. Vacuum systems work opposite from compressors; one is positive pressure and the other negative. Compressors turn on & off depending on air pressure but vacuums are high power motors that are designed to run continually for long periods of time. But again, filters, valves and the amalgam separator need to be serviced. Annual maintenance is strongly recommended and scheduling a service call whenever it is time to change the amalgam separator is a great opportunity. However, now we have some new concerns.

The New Concerns … Hypochlorous Acid (HOCl) Cleaner & Disinfectant. Anything with the word “acid” concerns me when there is electric circuitry involved. If you are fogging your office you may be damaging you dental equipment. I am not saying you shouldn’t do it but recognize the potential hazard to hard assets such as X-rays Units, Intraoral Cameras, Computers, Cavitrons, Electric Handpieces, etc. The fog is an acidic vapor that is designed to penetrate anywhere aerosols do. We know that the vapors from regular disinfectants and wipes leave residue on all the same equipment and will decrease life expectancy so we can only guess what the long term effects of Hypochlorous Acid will be.

Maintenance Program … The easiest and most financially sensible thing to do is to schedule one day once a year to have all of your equipment serviced. In most cases it’s just a 1 to 2 hour service call, but as Benjamin Franklin said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. You have practice management software and so does your service tech. put it in the schedule whenever your amalgam separator needs to be changed. Get it all done at the same time and you will prolong the life and function of your equipment. Also, scheduling the time is under your control to avoid any clinical disruptions.

Anyway, these are my opinions. Please feel free to contact me at any time with questions or concerns.

Cliff Marsh Cell: 201-321-7494 / Fax: 201-262-2210 / Email: cliffmarshsmile@gmail.com / Cliffsnotesblog.me

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February 1, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment