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5 Tell-Tale Signs That Indicate You Need to Consider a New Dental Handpiece

Posted: 16th Jan 2020

Handpieces are vital to any modern dental practice, and when operating properly, they can keep your business running smoothly. Dental drills represent a significant part of your overall investment in dental equipment and deciding whether to repair or replace them has a great impact on your practice’s bottom line.

Being able to recognise the symptoms of a dental handpiece that’s not working properly will save your business time and money in the long run. In this blog, we are looking at the tell-tale signs that it’s time to consider buying a new dental handpiece.

1. Increasing handpiece repair costs.

Handpieces have a hard life and inevitably parts wear out over time. When in use, turbines are subjected to speeds of up to 400,000 rpm with intense lateral pressure on the central spindle. Contra-angle handpieces are driven by gear sets that naturally wear out. As a result, handpiece repairs are always going to be required. However, when repairs become more frequent and as more parts fail, it’s time to consider whether investing in a new dental handpiece is a better solution.

2. Handpiece exterior corrosion.

Following extensive use and constant sterilisation at 135 degrees C, the exterior coating of some handpieces can become corroded or pitted. This can not only become a contamination issue (as outlined below) but when your patients have a very close up view of your instrument, they will not be impressed by seeing a tired-looking handpiece! What’s more, the exterior laser markings, including the serial number, can be erased from the constant wear. This then creates issues with tracking equipment through the practice and tracking it through the repair workshop. After all, how will you prove it’s your handpiece or the handpiece is within its warranty period if it has no identification?

3. Contamination issues.

With external corrosion, pitting or damage, can you be 100% sure the handpiece is thoroughly cleaned and sterile?
According to the Decontamination in primary care dental practice technical memoranda HTM01-05. handpieces are more vulnerable to damage after prolonged use.

“Instruments may become damaged during use or suffer from general wear and tear over their lifespan. If devices are found to be faulty or damaged during inspection and function-testing, or if users identify that they are faulty, they should be taken out of use and either repaired or replaced. Instruments for repair should be decontaminated, labelled to identify they have been through the decontamination process, and then returned to either the manufacturer or a reputable repair company”.

4. Patient discomfort.

As handpieces wear out, their performance is reduced, and this ultimately affects patient comfort. When a bearing is worn, this results in more lateral free movement of the bur, causing the phenomenon known as ‘bur chatter’ or ‘bur wobble’. This is a very unpleasant experience for the patient, as that vibration will transfer through the tooth, but it will also be noticeable in the dentist’s hand. Bur rotation could significantly slow or even stop, which will prolong treatment. Some contra-angle handpieces may become very hot when the gears are worn, which could ultimately lead to a burn to the patient’s mouth. If patients are anaesthetised, they may not even be aware of that burn until later, which would be a serious consequence.

All this does not necessarily mean a new handpiece is required, but arranging a repair service at the earliest sign of bearing damage, can significantly cut the repair cost or allow you for enough time to get an expert opinion on the replacement cost.

5. When the handpiece repair cost is over 65% of the replacement cost.

This is always a debatable number and it’s important to consider your ROI. It’s a good idea to set a repair versus replacement threshold for your practice. This can often vary depending on the type of dental handpiece and the quality of the parts. Always ask what warranty is available with the repair and as a general rule of thumb, the longer the warranty, the better quality of parts are being used. Always use a repair workshop that’s accredited with ISO9001 and be sure you can easily track and monitor repair costs with your repair partner.

As a leading handpiece expert in the UK, Trigiene is proud to be at the forefront of handpiece repair management with its hassle-free online tracked and traced repair collection service. We also provide dental practices with independent advice on the most cost-effective and efficient handpieces and dental equipment. Whether you need help with repairing or replacing your handpiece, contact the Trigiene team today.

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