To understand why dental handpieces break, you first have to understand the anatomy of a dental handpiece. There are three important subcategories of handpieces: highspeed, slowspeed, and electrics. In this article we will describe each handpiece’s function and techniques to keep them running longer. Here’s some advice on each category from a top dental handpiece repair company in the United States:
A paint brush is to a painter as a dental handpiece is to a dentist. This is the most essential tool in a dental practice used in every dental procedure. Technology is changing, but the core makeup of a handpiece remains. Handpieces differ on lighting, hosing connection, and maneuverability or swivel functionality. Nonetheless, all air driven dental handpieces have a turbine inside allowing it to operate. The turbines makeup includes two bearings, an impeller, and a spindle or chuck. The bearings and impeller press onto the spindle/chuck making a complete turbine. Compressed air comes through the rear of the handpiece, moves up to the head, and hits the impeller (central piece of the turbine). This allows the bearings to rotate in turn rotating the bur.
When handpieces break, you’ll experience low torque, vibrations, squealing noises, or the slipping or dropping of a bur. Turbine failure, specifically bearing failure, creates these symptoms. With proper maintenance and sterilization techniques, you can delay or prevent failure from occurring. Autoclaves or sterilizers cause the majority of bearing failures. This process is crucial to patient health, but causes the bearings to dry out. Lubrication is necessary to keep the bearings moist prolonging damage, yet it is inevitable your bearings will dry up and fail over time.
Like highspeeds, slowspeed handpieces run off compressed air and have bearings incorporated into the design, but that’s where their similarities end. Slowspeeds output high torque and are used for general cutting, grinding, polishing and finishing work. The internal parts are an intricate combination of gears, rotor and rotor blades, bushings, and bearings that connect together allowing the handpiece to run. When slowspeed handpieces break, they will rotate with little or no torque. This is due to built up debris being sterilized inside the handpiece. To extend the life of a slowspeed, using a cleaner and lubricant solution will allow the slowspeed to purge debris before the sterilization process.
Electric handpieces are versatile offering highspeed, slowspeed, and endodontic abilities. And they break just like the other two types. This technology has been available for 10+ years and is now becoming more prevalent in the USA. The makeup of an electric handpiece is a combination of highspeed and slowspeed handpieces: they run on a turbine-like system in the head but instead of compressed air, using electricity to provide power to a complex gearing system. Like a highspeed handpiece, the bearings are prone to drying out and being the first component to fail. This failure comes in the form of wobbling, heating up, or squealing. Often times a doctor will not notice one of these symptoms when the handpiece breaks because it will continue to work. Running a handpiece with failure symptoms will cause greater damage to the internal components resulting in more costly repairs.
In all cases, taking an extra minute to examine, clean and lubricate each handpiece before sterilization will keep your handpieces operational. The ability to save money, reduce headaches, and operate with greater efficiency is in your hands. Of course, if you are in need of professional dental handpiece repair, you know where to turn!