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The Dos and Don’ts of Dental Handpiece Sterilization

Dental handpieces and the attachments utilized with those handpieces – such as reusable angles and low-speed varieties of motors – must be sterilized with heat between patients. According to studies, the internal areas of these items have the potential to experience contamination by materials that stem from patients while being used. If proper cleaning and sterilization is not performed, a patient or patients may suffer exposure to materials that are potentially infectious. If sterilization of the dental handpiece is not performed properly, it could negatively impact the lifespan of the device. Here, you will learn the dos and the don’ts of dental handpiece sterilization.

Dental Handpieces

The Dos

The following outlines that which should be done when sterilizing the dental handpieces of your practice:

  1. Your practice should follow the infection control procedures that are outlined in the CDC Guidelines issued in 2003 and the updated measures as outlined in the CDC Summary that was released in the year of 2016.
  2. Sterilizing monitoring must be put into place in your practice as part of the in-office infection control procedures.
  3. Dental practices should only use dental handpieces that are cleared by the FDA.
  4. When sterilizing dental handpieces in your practice, you must do so according to the instructions issued by the manufacturer of the dental instruments.
  5. Flush water through the handpiece in full operation for a minimum of 30 seconds in order to successfully remove all potential contaminants from the internal-based water line.
  6. Clean off biofilm using an appropriate brush under running water. It is acceptable – in most cases – to utilize a mild detergent during this step.
  7. Dry off the dental handpiece to avoid the process of oxidation from occurring within the chamber as this could result in the onset of corrosion.
  8. Spray oil into the drive airline using only the mandated lubricating tip. You should spray until this oil emerges from the head of the device as this ensures that the bearings have been properly oiled.
  9. Always run the oil completely out of the device. This helps in preventing coagulation when the dental handpiece goes through autoclaving.
  10. Install a flush station in your practice. Perform necessary tasks and remove the bur. If you have a handpiece with a level, make sure it is closed when sterilizing.

The Don’ts

The following outlines that which should NOT be done when sterilizing the dental handpieces that you use in your practice:

  1. Engage in the autoclaving process as outlined in the manufacturer guidelines of your particular dental instrument.
  2. The sterilizing process should go through the dry cycle, completely.
  3. Bag the dental handpiece in order to avoid contamination during the sterilization process. It is recommended that you use a paper or plastic bag. This allows the steam to dissipate easily during autoclaving.
  4. Once the process is completely done, dry the handpiece. You should place the bag you use with a paper side facing up directly on top of the sterilization equipment. The hear will rise and will completely dry the handpiece.
  5. If possible, have a fully automated cleaning and lube station installed in your practice. While this is a tad on the expensive side, most manufacturers will provide an extended warranty on their dental handpieces if the automated station is used that is purchased from them.
  6. Once sterilization is complete, you should NEVER run the instruments under cold water in an effort to cool them down more quickly. This is highly detrimental to the instrument.
  7. Never use alcohol as a cleaning agent during sterilization. This substance is known to dehydrate the spores of the instrument and it results in an increased resistance to the sterilization process.
  8. Never use any type of chemical-based solutions for cleaning or sterilizing your dental handpieces.
  9. Never use any type of product that is abrasive on your dental handpieces. Not only does this lead to handpiece corrosion, it could make your patients sick.
  10. Do not attempt to maintain or repair your dental handpieces if you lack the knowledge, skill, and confidence to do so. Have a professional handle these aspects of care for you.

We Can Help!

If you have questions about the care and maintenance of your dental handpieces, contact us here at Hughes Dental today. Not only are we capable of answering any questions you may have, but we also specialize in dental handpiece maintenance and repair. Furthermore, we carry a large assortment of parts and products that are sure to benefit your practice. For more information, contact us now by calling: 1-800-773-0800

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