The Center For Disease Control strongly recommends heat or chemical sterilization of all instruments exposed to the bodily fluids of the patients they are used on. Responsible dental professionals take this recommendation very seriously, each doing their part to prevent the spread of blood born pathogens such as Auto Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and Hepatitis C. The need for dental handpiece repair, in many cases, is a result of the daily exposure of dental handpieces to the sterilization, or autoclave, process which heats handpieces to 275 degrees Farenheit or 135 degrees Celsius for approximately 18 minutes. This exposure to heat, moisture, and in some cases chemicals reeks havoc on dental handpiece parts.
Dental Handpiece Parts
Dental handpiece parts are varied and many. Components combined to create dental handpiece turbines include bearings, rotors, chucks, impellers, o-rings, springs, and washers. A typical dental turbine must spin at approximately 400,000 rpm to provide the cutting strength and torque required to prepare a tooth for the cavity filling. Considering the speeds encountered, dental turbines are very sensitive to parts becoming brittle and breaking, as rotating parts come in contact with the stationary handpiece head internals. Excessive vibration and friction are public enemy number one where dental handpiece parts are concerned.
Dental Handpiece Repair Training
For those considering entering the dental handpiece repair business, formal and intensive dental handpiece repair training is strongly advised. Industry competition is fierce with dental offices constantly being flooded with flyers and offers for discounted repair services. Those repair professionals lucky enough to enter the industry before the flood are guarded, secretive, and territorial. Extensive training, thousands of dollars in dental handpieces repair parts, proprietary tooling, and extreme persistence are an absolute must.
Dentists possessing the time and inclination can learn to perform dental handpiece repair on their respective brand handpieces with a little coaching from repair professionals willing to provide. Many dentists now rebuild their own highspeed handpiece turbines assisted by the various available presses, such as EZ Press, marketed by Handpiece Headquarters. Those not wishing to rebuild individual handpiece turbines can also opt to replace turbines themselves with minimal instruction. Simple tools such as the end cap removal tool, which typically comes with new handpieces, and explorer picks for replacing o-rings will do the trick. Both, manufacturers and repair professionals sometimes place dental handpiece repair training videos online describing in office replacement of popular dental handpiece turbines.
Dental Handpiece Repair Kit
Dentists performing their own repair, and many dental handpiece repair professionals alike now opt for the purchase of a dental handpiece repair kit. Kits are most often designed for the common practice of highspeed dental turbine rebuilds, as highspeed dental handpiece repair is one of the most extensive recurring costs to a busy dental practice. A typical dental handpiece repair kit consists of bearings, o-rings, clips, and washers packaged conveniently for each specific brand. Again, Handpiece Headquarters is a very good source for these kits, most containing ABEC 9 rated ceramic bearings for quiet performance and longevity. Kits are available for the following:
- Kavo Handpiece Repair
- NSK Handpiece Repair
- Midwest Handpiece Repair
- Star Handpiece Repair
- W&H Handpiece Repair
- Bien-Air Handpiece Repair
- and others too numerous to mention here
Dental Handpiece Repair Tools
Handpiece manufacturers are becoming more protective in ensuring handpieces are returned to them for repair. Handpieces are now being manufactured such that access to internals require proprietary dental handpiece repair tools. These tools are typically very expensive, protected, and limited in issue. Also, in many cases, this method of manufacture makes for a much more aesthetically pleasing look, with smoother lines, and fewer cracks and indentations which tend to create catch points for rubber gloves, as well as, hiding places for bacteria and contaminants. Of course, it will come as no surprise that German and Austrian companies have led the way, requiring more proprietary dental handpiece repair tools than all others combined. It seems engineering in this part of the world is in a league all its own.
Our Opinion on Brands
While we certainly have our favorites, all brands mentioned above are of very good quality. Kavo probably has the edge in our opinion. While dental handpiece repair on Kavo can be expensive, with proper care and maintenance they typically last longer between trips to the shop. NSK probably ranks second on our list. We especially appreciate the NSK high speed handpieces, which employ very high quality canister type dental turbines. These are easily replaced chairside without the need for an explorer pick to replace o-rings.
In concluding this article, we feel it is imperative to disclose our affiliation. We have been in the business of dental handpiece repair for over 19 years now. We feel it is a very rewarding field. While we would not encourage anyone to enter this business without great trepidation, we feel there is certainly room for more dental handpiece repair professionals willing to provide great service to a group of 100 or so local dentists in this niche. We would also recommend that those considering dental handpiece repair, not depend on it as their sole source of income. At least to start.
Dentists are encouraged to take the time to learn basic handpiece repair, as this knowledge also helps in training staff to care for handpieces more effectively. Turbine replacement is certainly encouraged, as this skill alone can save hundreds throughout the year for the busy modern practice.