A Conversation with Mr. Glenn Williams Regarding Dental Handpiece Maintenance

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Wed, Jan 24, 2018 @ 11:45 AM

bigstock-dentistry-medicine-medical-e-119855579-592999-edited.jpgMr. 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.


Tags: dental handpiece, handpiece maintenance, air-driven handpiece, electric handpiece, dental handpieces, dental handpiece maintenance

A Conversation On Dental Handpieces with Dr. Marty Jablow

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Fri, Jan 19, 2018 @ 10:15 AM

dentist using dental handpiecesMarty Jablow, DMD, is a clinician, speaker, and authority in dental technology. In his presentation titled “The Dental Handpiece & Its Role in Daily Practice,” Dr. Jablow discusses the history of handpieces and the differences between air-driven, electric, and hybrid electric handpieces. Read below as THE NEXTDDS talks to Dr. Jablow for his insights on using handpieces to access difficult areas, proper hand treatment after procedures, and his daily maintenance routine for dental handpieces.

What’s your approach when using a high-speed electric handpiece to cut through a zirconia crown?

Dr. Jablow: First: I would knock down the rpms from 200,000 to 100,000. I do not bond every crown in because I don’t think it’s necessary if you have good resistance and retention form. What you would do is slice into this; cut through it on the buccal at about a 1/3 or 1/2 way across the occlusal and, if I can get an instrument in there, I can crack the crown into two pieces and it comes out fairly clean. It’s much easier using this than an air-driven handpiece.

Share some insight on how you access difficult areas like mandibular lingual, maxillary molars, etc.

Dr. Jablow: There are huge advantages to isolation. Do I put a rubber dam on every patient? The answer is “No.” What we use in my office to make things easier are isolation systems. My system of choice includes mouthpieces that retract the tongue and the cheek and provides vacuum suction and illumination. It’s also important to use thing like cotton rolls, retractors, and other hand-held instruments; those make your access much easier.

How should dental students build up their hand skills with their handpieces as they think about making their way into the clinical environment?

Dr. Jablow: It’s just about cutting and taking the time to do it. You are going to go through a whole bunch of things. I believe teeth are not contiguous enamel and dentin; they do not cut the same. Some enamel in the teeth is harder. With practice, practice, and more practice, you will eventually develop the skills. The main thing is the frustration. Let it go, it’s not always easy, just keep practicing. There is no magic to this.

You also talked about your daily upkeep of your handpieces. How long does your maintenance routine take and who’s responsible for that in your practice?

Dr. Jablow: After you use the handpiece, run the water through it for 30 seconds or so; this procedure is done every day in the morning. We also flush the lines and place the oil. This is the manual way of doing it. There are also handpiece cleaners/centers where you can actually put the handpiece on the attachments and they will lubricate and blow the air through it.

Sounds very effective. What do you to help with your hands before a long procedure?

Dr. Jablow: Take a break. Give yourself enough time. If you going to do a long procedure, make sure the patient has break time and you have break time. Sometime I simply flex my hands and stretch them out. If you’re having hand issues, you should speak with an orthopedic surgeon or hand surgeon.

Any tips for the new dentist on handpiece positions? For example, if you’re preparing tooth #2 or #15 distobuccally for a crown?

Dr. Jablow: First thing: use magnification. I know in many dental school students are required to buy loupes but not everyone is wearing them. That’s a big deal; if you can see it well, you can do it well. This is very important for preparation. Obviously, isolation is a little harder back there. If you’re concerned about lacerating cheeks, absorbent pads and dry shields will help prevent that. You may even have to get out of the chair and do those non-ergonomic things for an effective procedure.

Thank you very much for your time Dr. Jablow! We greatly appreciate you taking the time to share your knowledge with THE NEXTDDS user community!

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Tags: dental handpiece, handpiece maintenance, air-driven handpiece, electric handpiece, dental handpieces, dental handpiece maintenance

5 Simple Recommendations to Maintain Your Dental Handpiece

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Wed, Jan 03, 2018 @ 11:00 AM

bigstock-Dental-Tools-On-Dentist-Chair--137501039-338816-edited.jpgDental handpieces have a long and storied history and remain a vital, daily part of dentistry today. The care and maintenance of these handpieces are essential to preserving their lifespan and proper functionality. While traditional air-driven handpieces are more common in daily practice, the increase in electric handpiece availability means that they have now become more widely used.

Understanding how to properly clean and maintain handpieces and their components will help you provide optimal care to your patients. Knowing when to replace or rebuild handpiece turbines or knowing when to clean and lubricate handpieces are essential steps to achieve long-lasting quality. While every dental handpiece will need to be serviced at some point, properly maintaining your handpiece will be crucial as you move through your day-to-day operations.

Courtesy of Mr. Glenn Williams, a recent THE NEXTDDS virtual training event entitled “5 Simple Recommendations to Maintain Your Dental Handpiece” discusses the recognition of different components of dental handpieces and how they work. Mr. Williams also shows the viewers how to reduce spending on costly handpiece repairs, increase the life of turbines between repairs, and improve handpiece maintenance knowledge and skills. Here are the five recommendations from the presentation:

1. Air Pressure

Air pressure has the most effect on the life of a handpiece and is an important consideration. Handpieces have tiny precision bearings that have a certain operating envelope, and if they are taken past the recommended pressure and pushed beyond their limit, they will have an accelerated failure and become prone to constant repairs. Small, inline gauges can be used to make accurate readings of air pressure, which is important because handpieces have frictional air loss as air travels through the tubing, which may lose as much as six pounds of pressure from the dental unit to the handpiece. Consistently checking your handpiece’s air pressure should be paramount in your practice.

2. Lubrication

Many questions come into play when discussing lubrication:

How often should you oil the handpiece?

You should oil your handpieces every single time you autoclave it. This procedure is now universal, as every manufacturer has guidelines to spray the oil, run out the excess buildup, and then begin the autoclave proceedings.

Where does the oil go?

A four-hole or four-line handpiece has an exhaust which is usually the biggest hole on the handpiece. Here, you don’t want back pressure building up on the handpiece which will slow the handpiece down. Instead, the smaller of the two large holes is called the “drive” hole that drives the turbine where the air is going under pressure. This is where you want the oil to go.

Oils come in a dropper and a spray. Which one is better to use?

Droppers usually don’t penetrate the bearings enough when compared to sprays, which means that you’re relying on the pressure of the air to drive the oil to the bearings. Sprays take out these variables. In addition, using the correct tip on the handpiece can be a huge factor as different brands may have intricate qualities that prevent proper cleaning.

Why should you run out excess oil?

Running out the excess oil is important for several reasons. First, it allows the oil to not “bake” into the bearings, which would cause the handpiece to become sluggish. Secondly, it allows the oil to not spray into the patient’s mouth. Finally, it allows the oil to not contaminate the operating field. In this way, flushing stations are a good option to use after lubrication in the sterilization area.

Does it matter what type of oil I use?

If you bought the handpiece from a manufacturer under a product warranty, you should use the manufacturer’s oil or risk voiding out your warranty. Thus, it is important to use only one brand of oil for that handpiece’s lubrication. However, if you do not have a warranty, the type of oil you use does not matter, as long as you consistently and routinely lubricate your handpieces.

What about automatic lubrication machines?

Automatic lubrication machines offer both positive and negatives to the practitioner. While these machines create more staff time to do other tasks, can consistently clean multiple handpieces at a time at a measured pace, and can extend your warranty in some situations, they can be expensive, fill counter space, and can possibly fail through longtime use. When taking these machines into account, know that staff can be easily trained to do the manual task of lubrication.

3. Sterilization

The type of autoclave you use and how you perform sterilization are also factors that impact the life of your handpiece. Compared to conventional autoclaves, the cassette autoclaves advocated by Williams have no rise time compared to the 30-minute wait for water to steam in conventional machines. There is no corrosion and down time as the vacuum pump removes all air from the cassette without oxidation and removes all steam from the cassette. Thus, cassette-type autoclaves take a total of 12 minutes compared to the 60-minute wait time for conventional autoclaves.

4. Chemical Wipedown

You should not use any chemical wipes of any kind with your handpieces, as this process is redundant, harmful, and useless. There’s no reason to wipe the handpiece with a disinfectant (where you are just going to introduce chemicals into the head and bearings) when you’re going to kill everything through sterilization. Handpieces should be brushed under running water only to remove external bioburden prior to sterilization.

5. The Practice Type and Number of Handpieces

Some things are outside your control, such as what type of practice you are in, that effect the lifespan of a handpiece. For example, a prosthodontist may use their handpieces more often than a periodontist or an orthodontist. The number of handpieces you have in rotation also plays a factor. If your inventory is tight, it will make a huge difference when one handpiece breaks down and has to be repaired.


The introduction of dental handpieces has revolutionized dentistry. They are an essential part of dental practices as dentists rely on them daily. Despite their importance, however, education is needed to fully understand the intricacies of their design, maintenance, and overall performance. Understanding how they work will extend their life and keep repair costs down. When it does come time to do the necessary repair protocols, it pays to be aware of what steps need to be taken.

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Tags: dental handpiece, handpiece maintenance, air-driven handpiece, electric handpiece, dental handpieces, dental handpiece maintenance

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