Remember the best practices for handpiece maintenance using the acronym:
- CLEAN handpiece with alcohol and a brush. Tooth brushes are fine. We prefer denture brushes due to the size. Just ensure debris is removed from outside of handpiece which would be baked on by the sterilization process. Once debris is removed, wipe down with paper towel to dry. Never place handpiece under running water.
- LUBRICATE handpiece with approved handpiece cleaner/lubricant only. Always place lubricant into air intake hole. Of course, many new handpieces have swivel connectors, and manufacturers have created adapters to ensure lubricant reaches the air intake. In this case, just follow manufacturers instructions.
- EVACUATE or expel all lubricant from handpiece by re-attaching handpiece to unit and running long enough to remove excess lubricant and/or debris which may have been lodged inside. This is a good time to explain some handpiece physics. When doctor releases air supply from handpiece to stop operation, a slight vacuum is created inside handpiece head. This slight vacuum tends to pull debris inside. Many handpieces are equipped to help prevent this, but the evacuate step is still very important to ensure no debris is left inside handpiece prior to sterilization. The lack of this step in your maintenance process could be the culprit causing premature turbine failure.
- AUTOCLAVE or Sterilize handpiece. Although many new sterilization processes have been developed to provide the necessary infection and disease control, many still use autoclave to describe the process. Regardless of the method you use, ensure equipment is operating properly, and that supporting supplies used are appropriate for the unit. And remember, if using sterilization bags with paper on one side, always place in unit with paper side up to help in heat and moisture removal during the cool down process.
- REMOVE handpiece from sterilizer. While this step is obvious for most, it’s importance is in timing. Have someone designated to remove sterilized handpieces immediately following completion of cycle. Even though cycle is complete, the environment inside sterilizer could still be less than ideal. Remember, we are talking about slow, chronic weakening of turbine materials over time.
Of course, we understand this is a lot to remember. That’s why we use the acronym CLEAR to help us remember. The importance is in the process, not in understanding all the why’s. Follow this method and be assured you are doing your best to care for this valuable tool.
We enthusiastically recommend automatic handpiece maintenance/purge units which would, of course, eliminate steps 2 and 3. It’s easy to tell which offices use automatic purge units by how clean the handpiece interior is. We have observed the evolution of these units for the last 20 years. They are effective and efficient, saving time and money. Many dentists will see a dramatic reduction in repair costs.