Major League Baseball teams carry eleven or twelve pitchers on their roster and divide them into distinct roles: the starting rotation, the middle-relief and the late-innings relievers. They are rotated based on pitch counts… and we all know what happens if pitchers don’t have proper rest and rehabilitation.
So what does baseball have to do with dental handpieces? Well, besides the need for speed, agility, and precision, proper dental handpiece rotation is key for longevity. If a dentist keeps pushing the same dental handpiece—say uses it five times a day—the internal parts will eventually be compromised. The lifespan will be shortened. Like a general manager, a dentist should have enough handpieces to use each one a few times per day, in rotation with others. For the average practice, that means three high-speed handpieces and two low-speed handpieces per operatory:
- One in use
- One in sterilization
- One ready for prep
This is the number deemed feasible for an average operatory to maintain a good, solid rotation of handpieces allowing adequate time for use, maintenance, lube and sterilization cycles, with no downtime.
The longevity of a dental handpiece depends on good maintenance protocol—not just lubrication, but proper sterilization, and use.
Keep Your Dental Handpiece Safe.
Proper sterilization of dental instruments is critical. It clearly impacts patient safety, but proper maintenance with full lubrication cycles also expands the lifetime of the dental handpiece. According to repair technicians, one of the quickest ways to compromise a dental handpiece is to run a “flash” cycle to speed up the sterilization process and pull the handpieces out while they are still wet. This compromises the instruments since excess water allows oxidation to occur in the chamber, which leads to corrosion. A good rule of thumb is to reserve the flash cycle for emergency use only. The rest of the time, complete the full cycle that CDC guidelines recommend, which include at a glance:
- Surface clean (Flush water through the handpiece and remove bio debris with a brush.)
- Dry (Important since excess water leads to oxidation and corrosion in the chamber.)
- Lubricate (Spray oil into the drive airline until it comes out the handpiece head, to ensure that lubricant penetrates to the bearings.)
- Expel excess oil (Run the handpiece to evenly distribute the oil through the bearings, and to expel excess oil to prevent coagulation during autoclaving.)
- Clean fiber optic surfaces (Remove excess oil and debris with alcohol and a cotton swab.)
- Bag (Bag instruments and handpieces to maintain sterility.)
- Sterilize (Autoclave according to manufacturer instructions, and local regulations and guidelines. Allow the sterilizer to completely process through the dry cycle.)
- Dry (After the cycle, place the bag of handpieces paper side up, on top of the sterilizer to thoroughly dry.)
That should keep the operatory running smoothly.
If you find that you don’t have enough handpieces in the lineup, A‑dec|W&H offers a dental handpiece Try & Buy program (TryA-dec.com) that lets you discover the perfect handpiece fit for your team. No hassles. No worries. No balks.