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The dental handpiece is perhaps the most used instrument in a dentist’s arsenal (especially when talking about restorative dentistry). With proper care, your dental handpiece can perform optimally, saving you chair time and money.

What are the different types of dental handpieces?

The 2 main types of dental handpieces that can be found in any dental office are a high-speed and low-speed dental handpieces.
High-speed dental handpieces are used with burs to rapidly cut enamel for cavity and crown preparations and to section a tooth when performing surgeries. Their design can be greatly varied with the size of the head (smaller heads allow improved access in hard-to-reach areas), angulation of the head, and lights that can be integrated into the design to improve intra-oral illumination. They typically rotate between 180,000 and 450,000 rpm while spraying water to cool the tooth as it is cut so that the pulp of the tooth does not become irreversibly damaged.
Low-speed dental handpieces are used to remove soft decay, finish cavity preparations, and polish work. They typically rotate at 80,000 rpm and come with different attachments suited to different tasks.
Though there are many brands of dental handpieces available on the market, the warranty typically varies from 6 to 24 months, with longevity being increased with proper care and maintenance.

To ensure optimal function, it is important that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions when it comes to cleaning, lubricating, and autoclaving your dental handpiece. Generally, the following steps are taken:

How to care for your dental handpiece?

1.Externally clean your handpiece:Your handpiece must be cleaned before being sterilized. Using something that is germicidal, such as Isopropyl alcohol, with a soft bristle brush works well to thoroughly clean the outside of your dental handpiece. Your dental handpiece should never be submerged in water or any type of chemical solution (such as phenols or glutaraldehydes) as these have been known to corrode certain types of metals that are commonly used to manufacture dental handpieces.

2.Lubricate & internally clean your handpiece: Using the correct adaptor and good quality oil, the dental handpiece heads, the nosecones, and the contra-angles should be sprayed for a few seconds until oil comes out of the head. Once properly lubricated, your dental handpieces should be connected to an air supply and run for about 20 seconds to get rid of any excess oil.


3.Sterilization of the dental handpiece: The dental handpiece should be placed in a pouch and autoclaved.

4.Allow the dental handpiece to cool & dry: Once it has been autoclaved, the handpiece should be removed, stored in an upright position, and allowed to cool and dry internally. The handpiece should always be left to properly cool and should not be used when it is still hot (it should never be run under cold water to rapidly cool it either).
By following these steps after each use of your dental handpiece, you will ensure that the most valuable player of your dental instrument team is well taken care of.

1.Evans, S. (2018, August 22). A practice manager’s guide to dental handpieces. Dentistry.
2.Hughes Diversified Dental. (n.d.). How to Properly Care for Your Dental Handpieces.
3.Rory. (2020, June 15). Tips for handpiece care & maintenance. Dureka Dental Handpieces.

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