Mr. Glenn Williams has a wealth of knowledge in the dental handpiece business, which includes the recognition of different components, how handpieces work, and how to reduce spending on costly repairs. At the conclusion of his presentation titled “5 Simple Recommendations to Maintain Your Dental Handpiece,” Mr. Williams answered questions posed by the students in attendance regarding maintenance, repair, and importance features of the handpiece.
Dental Student: At school, we have a two-piece, high-speed system: the handpiece as well as the coupler. There is some controversy among the students about whether or not to sterilize the coupler. What are your thoughts?
Mr. Williams: That’s a controversy in the industry as well. The current FDA guideline is to sterilize that which goes into a patient’s mouth. The consensus is that you do not sterilize the coupler because you’ll then have to sterilize the hose, and you’ll be working backwards. The handpiece is designed to be separated and sterilized. The coupler doesn’t go into the patient’s month technically so it’s not required to be sterilized by the FDA.
Dental Student: When it comes to the failures, do the handpieces start to break down all at once or is it a gradual process?
Mr. Williams: Yes, it is a gradual process. As soon your bur stops turning concentrically and starts to wobble, that’s a sign that the bearings are going. You’re going to hear an increase in noise and you should feel it in your hand. You can absolutely tell when it’s going, and we would urge you to send it in sooner rather than later because when the bearings go, everything else gets damaged--which leads to handpiece replacement rather than repair.
Dental Student: Are there certain features that are most important to a dentist who’s going to be using a handpiece on an ongoing basis in daily practice?
Mr. Williams: The best handpiece is the handpiece that suits you well. It needs to fit your hand shape. Handpieces are becoming more and more ergonomic. Head sizes are very important as well. One of the things that we’re seeing now, which is great for practitioners, is the multi-port water spray, in which water comes all around the bur and never gets blocked by the tooth. If you go distal, you still have water on the back side, which comes down and irrigates the bur. Here’s the tradeoff: Doctors want power so they can work efficiently. The bigger the head, the more powerful the handpiece. However, with the large head, the tradeoff is now access and vision; you cannot exactly see what you’re doing. Smaller heads provide better access and visibility but they are not as powerful. There are the tradeoffs you’ll have to deal with when using a handpiece. Word to the wise: never buy a handpiece without try it out first.
Dental Student: Are there areas you repair most frequently on a handpiece? Bearings? Fiber optics?
Mr. Williams: Always the bearings. In a handpiece there’s only one moving part; that’s all there is to fix. You can have a chucking issue where the bur is being released, which leads to a patient safety issue. Fiber optics are going away. We used to do large business in replacing optics. We quit replacing them because dentists increasingly use headlight systems. We are seeing more and more non-optic handpieces.
Dental Student: From your expertise, do you repair air or electric more often?
Mr. Williams: Air is predominant. Electric has grown to become 18% of our business last year. Once you’ve invested in electric handpieces, you cannot go back to air. The power difference is tremendous. The problem is, for a doctor in an existing practice, it’s a big investment. Each unit costs $3,500 and each handpiece can run to about $1,500. The barrier to entry is the cost.
Dental Student: When do you anticipate future advances will come in handpiece technology?
Mr. Williams: Size. Everything is about getting small. After years of making heads smaller and smaller, the electric motor itself is a pretty good-sized object that you have to hold in your hand. With all the gears and everything you see inside the body, the bodies got heavy and fat. The goal is to get the electric motors down to a certain size.
Thank you Mr. Williams for sharing perspectives and knowledge with us and THE NEXTDDS user community! Click here to watch other videos from THE NEXTDDS regarding topics in dexterity, hand skills, & instrumentation.