6 vital handpiece repair questions answered. #4 could save you more headaches than hiring a second assistant.
Without properly functioning handpieces, the modern dental practice will certainly suffer. It helps to better understand what makes them fail. Fortunately, we have answers to your problems with handpiece repair. We feel the 6 following questions can quickly raise awareness, and help minimize problems.
1. Why am I in constant need of handpiece repair?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) mandates that dentists sterilize handpieces. Sterilization makes equipment highly susceptible to breakdowns due to the corrosive nature of the repeated heat and cool procedure. Prior to this, the old Midwest, Kavo and Star handpieces could go three years and more prior to failure.
Modern handpieces are designed to provide a much better seal against the sterilization environment. In addition, engineering improvements minimize debris accumulation in handpiece head. Less debris allowed to accumulate in handpiece head greatly reduces stress, and the frequency of handpiece repair.
2. So, what can we do to help?
We quickly repair most any type of high-speed or low-speed dental handpiece. Air driven and electric handpiece repair is our niche.
Clinical, Surgical, Implant, and Endodontic handpieces are our specialty.
On high-speed air driven handpieces, we typically replace turbines to minimize the risk of chuck failure.
Similarly, cartridges are replaced in electric handpiece repair for that same reason.
O-rings should be replaced as well to ensure atomized spray from all ports with no leakage.
3. What about electric motor driven high speed handpieces?
- NSK X95L
- Kavo 25 LPA
- W&H WA-99
- Bien Air CA 1:5
Cartridge is located in handpiece head and houses the chuck. The chuck is a common failure point in electric handpieces. Burs get stuck during operation which simply stalls the turbine in an air driven handpiece. However, due to the high torque produced by electric motors, chuck can spin around bur shaft resulting in excess heat. This is certainly a problem we wish to avoid. Please see our video on Electric Handpiece Lubrication for further explanation.
Electric handpiece repair starts with the head, but can also include replacement of gears in the neck and handle. High-speed electric handpiece repair can consist of replacing multiple gear sets throughout the handpiece. Head cartridge is most often the failure point. It spins at the highest speed (approximately 200,000 rpms) and, of course, contains the chuck.
4. So, what can doctors and staff do to help?
Some handpieces are maintenance free, or Lube Free®, meaning the bearings do not require routine lubrication. However, periodic flushing of all handpieces will help ensure safe performance, and extend the life of bearings and chuck. According to Star Dental® it is necessary to clean the chuck once a week. Electric handpieces should be flushed following each use, prior to autoclave.
Save money on electric high speed handpiece repair by paying close attention to the heat generated by your handpiece. If it starts feeling hotter than normal, stop and send handpiece for service. Continuing to run handpiece to its failure point typically results in additional damage to lower gear sets. Stopping prior to failure should minimize the extent of handpiece repair required. Replacing only the head gear will greatly reduce cost.
Prior to using any high speed handpiece, ensure adequate water flow, and give bur a pull with thumb and forefinger. This will ensure proper bur cooling and provide a cursory chuck retention test.
5. What about our low speed handpieces?
Low speed handpiece repair most always requires a thorough cleaning of all parts, usually by sonic cleaner, followed by the replacement of bearings. Bearings fail due to debris intrusion, and/or lack of lubrication.
Low speed handpieces include:
- air driven motors
- nose cones
- straight attachments
- contra angles
- hygiene handpieces
Surgical handpiece repair is similar to the repair of clinical nose cones. Thorough cleaning and bearing replacement returns handpiece to new condition. Endodontic and Implant handpieces such as W&H WS-75 EK/M have head gears similar to high speed electric handpieces. However, these are designed for much lower speeds and higher torque. Replacement bearings are a bit larger and stronger, and gears have fewer teeth.
6. What can I do to help my Surgical, Endodontic, and Implant handpieces last longer?
Minimize handpiece repair on Surgical, Endodontic, and Implant handpieces by keeping them cleaned and flushed with each use. These handpieces are exposed to extreme torque. The W&H WS-75 series handpiece pictured at right has a 20:1 gear ratio. This means that for every 20 motor revolutions, the bur only turns once. Very high torque. Early failure will result if debris is allowed to remain in head. Clean the outside with alcohol and a soft brush. Flush inside with handpiece cleaner/lubricant, or place in automatic purge unit. Flush electric handpieces with head down to ensure debris removal. Please see our handpiece lubrication videos to explain this in more detail.
Dental handpieces will continue to become more specialized to allow for a more comfortable patient experience. While new technology can greatly improve patient experience, more complicated maintenance steps can be become necessary to ensure equipment longevity.
We believe automatic purge units, like Kavo Quattro Care, and Adec Assistina are very important. Best way to care for handpieces, hands down. Automatic purge units help to ensure an adequate flush is achieved. However, even more importantly we recommend placing an experienced team member in charge of maintenance and sterilization.
Really want to take a deep dive on how handpieces work? Take a look at this link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dental_drill
Handpiece Repair FAQ
How long should highspeed handpieces last before repair?
Highspeed handpiece air driven turbines can last 18+ months with good care and maintenance. Manufacturers warranty turbines from 6 to 12 months.
Highspeed Electric handpieces/contra angles are gear driven, spin a little slower than air driven handpieces, and can last 2 years+, again depending on proper care and maintenance.
Should I use electric handpieces vs air driven handpieces?
Electric handpieces have high torque and can remove bulk material quickly. They are also quiet, and provide patient comfort for those fearful of dental procedures. Air driven handpieces are sometimes preferred for a more delicate touch. Many dentists now consider both necessary tools to achieve the best experience in minimal time.
What are the best brands of dental handpieces?
Brand loyalty is varied, but from a handpiece repair perspective, Kavo and W&H tend to stand out. Whether air driven or electric, quality is never in question with these two companies.
Can we repair our own handpieces?
The short answer is yes. Many air driven handpieces have easy access to turbines. New turbines can be purchased with the necessary o-rings, washers, etc…
Cleanliness is key here. Handpiece head and back cap can be cleaned with alcohol and a cotton swab. O-rings can be replaced with an explorer pick. However, electric handpieces and contra angles should be sent for repair due to the complex nature of assembly. Highspeed electric contra angles contain multiple gear sets (similar to an automobile transmission) to achieve the speed necessary for hard enamel removal.