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The 5 common issues with your handpiece and how to resolve them.

Posted: 6th Mar 2024

At Trigiene, we handle thousands of dental handpieces in our service department every month, and our customers often turn to us for assistance when issues arise that they don’t know how to combat. From discoloured oil to stuck burs, we’ve seen and fixed it all, and we’re here to help you know what to do if one of these common problems arise with your own handpiece. In the article below, we’ve identified the top 5 questions that our customers typically ask when bringing their malfunctioning equipment to our team, and broken down the symptoms, causes and remedies of these common dental handpiece issues that you should be aware of.

Our aim is to provide you with the best advice and steps to follow if you encounter an issue with your dental handpiece, ultimately reducing downtime, and saving you from the fallout caused by prolonged delays.


Why is black oil coming out of my handpiece?

  • Symptoms: This common handpiece issue presents itself in the form of black oil which leaks out when oiling the equipment. This can be potentially hazardous so it’s crucial that as soon as you notice this symptom, the handpiece is removed from circulation until the cause has been identified and the tool has been repaired.
  • Cause: The most common cause of black oil in handpieces is a breakdown of the bearings within the piece itself. When these are corroded, usually through excessive vibration (which we’ll cover in the following section) the debris produces the black oily substance. There are other diagnoses that also fit the symptom of black oil, however, and the handpiece will need to be inspected by a trained engineer to confirm the cause.
  • Advice: If you notice black oil in your handpiece, you can try rectifying the issue yourself by re-oiling it and applying new oil until ‘clear’ oil is visible. If this isn’t effective, it’s likely that the bearings are the cause, and will need to be replaced before you can use the handpiece again.


Why is my dental handpiece vibrating?

  • Symptoms: Excessive vibration in a dental handpiece doesn’t just put the patient and dentist at risk of discomfort, but it can also be a sign of potentially dangerous internal damage. Continued use of a handpiece which is vibrating or wobbling in this way could cause further damage or wear to the delicate components, leading to other issues and resulting in a more expensive repair.
  • Cause: Vibration in handpieces is usually indicative of an imbalance or damage in the turbine, but can also be caused by worn bearings or misalignment of the bur. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to identify the exact cause of this wobbling without dismantling the handpiece and inspecting the internal mechanisms for damage, wear and tear, so getting a professional engineer involved is the best course of action
  • Advice: Unfortunately, there’s nothing that can be done to rectify excessive vibration without assistance from a trained engineer. This is because, unless there are any external signs of damage which could be contributing to the vibration, this issue will require inspection and the possible repair or replacement of any damaged components.


Why is the bur in my dental handpiece stuck?

  • Symptoms: A common handpiece issue that some dentists will face is the dental bur getting stuck and being difficult to remove. This can happen without any visible signs of damage to the bur itself, making it hard to know what has caused the problem. However, you’ll know there is an issue if you meet any resistance when trying to insert or remove the bur, as this should ordinarily be a smooth and easy task.
  • Cause: If you’re facing resistance when inserting or removing a dental bur, the most likely culprit is the bur itself, rather than the handpiece. This can happen if the bur is damaged, or if it’s a ‘cheap’ bur with incorrect shank dimensions.
  • Advice: The first and most important rule to follow when tackling a belligerent dental bur is to avoid attempting to force it in or using pliers to rip it out if it’s stuck in the handpiece. If you’re meeting resistance when inserting a bur, replace it with a new one, and if you can’t remove a stuck bur, contact a trained engineer who will inspect the piece and use specialised bur removal tools to make sure it’s extracted without causing further damage.


Why isn’t the bur gripping securely in place?

  • Symptoms: When properly inserted and secured, a dental bur in a handpiece should be impossible to pull out manually, with the grip holding steady to ensure the safety of the patient when the handpiece is in use. If you can remove the bur from the piece without pushing the release button first, there’s a problem with the grip.
  • Cause: A loose bur is a sign that there’s something wrong within the handpiece, and it shouldn’t be used until this cause has been identified and diagnosed by a certified engineer. The most common cause of a loose bur is a failure in the chuck mechanism, which would need a replacement cartridge to bring it back into working order.
  • Advice: From the perspective of the dentist, there’s no trick or test that can be performed from the practice when a bur is loose beyond double checking that you have inserted the bur correctly in the first instance. To do this, remove the bur and re-insert by fully depressing the push button and replacing the bur. If it is still loose after doing this check, you’ll need to contact a handpiece repair centre, like us here at Trigiene, to request inspection of the piece.


How to prevent a DCI 3 in 1 Syringe from leaking?

  • Symptoms: When in perfect working condition, you should never see any water leakage from a DCI 3-in-1 air-water syringe. If you do, this is a sign of damage or a malfunctioning part, which should be inspected before continuing usage of the handpiece.
  • Cause: The most likely cause of a leaking 3-in-1 syringe is damage to the O-ring, which is the rubber seal inside the handpiece which prevents leakages as the water passes from the hose, through the handpiece and out the disposable syringe tip.
  • Advice: If the O-ring is damaged, this will need to be replaced in order to stop the leakage. Fortunately, this is an easy task that doesn’t require specialist equipment or training, and can be performed in the practice. To do this yourself, you’ll need an allen key and a replacement O-ring, and to follow along to our ‘How to change an O-ring’ step-by-step video guide.

If you have any difficulty removing and replacing the O-ring in your handpiece, our engineers are available to help. Simply get in touch with our team through our Request a Repair page, and follow the instructions to request free collection of your handpiece by our service department.


Why is my handpiece not working?

If your dental handpiece isn’t working and none of the issues we’ve covered in this blog seem to fit the symptoms you’re seeing, something more uncommon could be causing it to malfunction. It’s important when dealing with these pieces of equipment to seek specialist help in the first instance to ensure you don’t risk allowing the problem to worsen or impact your practice with inconvenient downtime.

Our team at Trigiene are on-hand to provide advice and support when handpieces malfunction and supply you with the servicing and repairs you need to get your piece back to working condition as quickly as possible. If you’re unsure of what is causing the problem, reach out to one of our engineers through our online live chat by clicking the message button on the bottom left of the screen, or by emailing us at mail@trigiene.co.uk. Alternatively, you can book your handpiece in for repair with our service department by clicking the button below.

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