Handpiece Q & A

  • I have been using a Midwest air driven handpiece, but 3 turbines have burnt up in the past 4 months. What is a good handpiece that gives me more torque and won't need a lot of repair?

    There are a number of good handpieces on the market that will give you superior torque. The Vector handpieces afford good value and should give you high quality performance. However, burning through all those Stylus turbines that often, even with a lot of crown and bridges. One reason this might be happening is poor, infrequent, or inadequate maintenance, which will cause premature turbine failure. Also, make sure you have the correct drive air pressure (it shouldn't be above 40 psi). Excessive drive air pressure is a common cause of failure (damages your bearings and drastically shortens the life of your turbine). Lastly, make sure when you are doing crown and bridge work, make sure you aren't putting too much side load on the bur. Don't lean into the bur when side cutting (it causes tremendous stress on the bearing). No matter what handpiece you have, the turbines won't last long if you are doing any of those things incorrectly. When considering a different handpiece, a higher torque handpiece might cut better and won't make you lean into the bur. Another type to think about is an electric handpiece. They have a ton of torque and a little more side load forgiveness. A last option is the Japanese-type handpiece. You won't get a significant amount of torque then the Midwest, but they are much more economical to repair (replacement turbines can be exchanged in seconds).

  • How do I unplug a water line on an NSK electric handpiece motor? I have tried using my air line pressure on the water port to blow through the plug, but it didn't work.

    Use handpiece cleaning wires. When using air, did you blow backwards through the line? They usually get clogged from the back-end up, blowing from the front down will usually work the best.

  • My Kavo electric handpiece won't spray any water. It was working up until the water bottle on the delivery unit ran out. It might have picked something up and clogged the line in the tubing or control box. How do I remove the clog?

    First, isolate where the clog is. If you disconnect the tubing from the box, do you get water out of the box? Keep tracing the line backwards until you get water; that will tell you where the clog is, so you aren't trying to unclog twenty feet of tubing. If the clog is at a valve or block, try to unscrew the fittings (barbs) and check under them for debris. High pressure air will sometimes do the trick too (the air/water syringe is usually fine). Try blowing backwards if you can. See Practice Tip #18 for more help.

  • I'm looking at purchasing a new slow-speed handpiece. Suggestions?

    There are two options: one with a 5k motor or one with a 20k motor. If you were to buy a slow-speed with a 20k motor, you can purchase a reduction attachment that will still allow you to do prophy work, caries removal, and trim temporaries at a slower speed. There are also 4:1 contra angles and nosecones for E-type handpieces (Star has a torque multiplier that is a reduction attachment). The only downside to a 20k motor with attachments is the bulk and weight of your slow-speed dental handpiece.

  • Do I need to lubricate and run my handpieces after every use?

    Yes, yes, yes, & yes again! This is the most important step in maintaining your dental handpiece. You absolutely need to lubricate and run your handpiece before you sterilize. Think of what you use your handpiece for. Debris can get inside the handpiece, so you need to flush the gunk out before you put it through your autoclave. NOTE: There isn't a specific time limit to how long you need to run your handpieces. They should be lubricated until there isn't anything coming out of the handpiece. It is possible you might have to run your handpiece(s) more than once to get it completely clean. See Practice Tip #65 for more handpiece lubrication assistance.

  • There is excess oil coming out of my handpiece for the first couple minutes of use and it is messy. Am I using the wrong handpiece cleaning lubricant?

    You must not be running your handpiece long enough during the lubrication process. The brand of lubricant isn't the issue, the brand and formula has no impact. Our suggestion is to use a hand lubrication system, not an automated one. It will give you better results and not give you the excess oil you have now. Handpieces need to be lubed and run until only clean lube is expelled and then until all excess is gone. Make sure you are running your handpiece through the lubricating process long enough.

  • I currently have a NSK, but the motor stopped working (expensive to repair). What kind of slow-speeds should I think about purchasing? I'm looking for something reliable and won't break the bank.

    One option is the Shorty. It is based on the old Tru Torq handpiece, but it is not manufactured by Midwest anymore. The benefit of this handpiece is familiarity. The second option is the Star Titan, but have their own attachments that are costly (there are after-market versions out there, but still somewhat expensive). The third option is the NSK that uses E-type attachments, which are more "universal" and will give you a wider range of brands and price points. With the E-type you will also be able to choose from a wider selection of attachments (ie: gear reductions for endo or surgical procedures). Most electric systems use E-type attachments too.

  • My handpiece has an OEM, so do I need to use only matching OEM parts?

    No, you do not. All parts, OEM or another third party are manufactured to industry specifications.

  • I just installed a new handpiece turbine, but the bearings are bad already. What could be wrong?

    It might not be the bearings, it could be the drive air pressure that is coming out of your control block and into your handpiece is too high. You will want your drive air pressure to come from your block (not your junction box) to be between 35psi and 40psi (no more than 40psi). Our suggestion is to have it at 37psi. A tool that will help keep this pressure in check is our handpiece pressure gauge (#14-76) for measuring the drive air pressure every so often.

  • My handpiece has a light in the coupler and the bulb burns out pretty fast. We have lowered the voltage setting, but it hasn't fixed the issue. Is this a normal occurrence?

    Handpiece bulbs can burn out prematurely for quite a few reasons. Check your power supply with the help of a multi-meter, it might be putting out excessive voltage and you don't even know it. One indicator of excessive voltage will make the light brighter than usual. Another factor for short bulb life could be caused by the oil from the handpiece. Look for oil on or around the bulb. Maintaining your handpiece regularly and properly is important. When you change your bulb on your handpiece, make sure to wear gloves or use a tissue. The oil on your hands can shorten the life of your bulb (if you are using a halogen bulb). If you are doing all of the above properly and have checked them out, check the wiring in the handpiece tubing. Sporadic light would be a good indicator of there being an issue.

  • How many times can I rebuild my high-speed handpiece?

    There is no exact number of times your turbine can be replaced/rebuilt. Generally, the primary component that fails in your handpiece are the bearings. A majority of rebuilds involve replacing the bearings and the parts associated with them (i.e. spacers, o-rings). Again, there isn't a limit to how many times these components can be replaced. The impeller (the rotor-like part) could become damaged if the handpiece is used after the bearings fail or if it is dropped or there is denting on the handpiece head. Impellers are a replaceable component, but impeller damage is rare. The spindle (the shaft part of the turbine) almost never breaks, but it can wear out over time. With wear, the spindle will stop holding all of its components on it and will be needing a replacement. Wear on the chuck is a fairly common occurrence, however. It is always moving and is quite fragile. Look at our Practice Tip #22 for more explanation.

  • My handpiece and its connector are stuck together. Unscrewing and trying to pull it off isn't working. I noticed the high-speed has a small screw at the bottom, should I unscrew that? What do you suggest I do?

    The screw at the bottom of the handpiece holds the lower assembly to the body of the handpiece and should NOT be removed. That would be bad for the handpiece and could cause even more damage. Using rubber utility gloves, grip the handpiece and connector separately, and then try to pull them apart. If the handpiece has been in place for a long time, the two pieces have become "welded" together and getting them apart will be difficult. If the rubber gloves don't work right away, you can try using some oil at the location of the connection to see if that will help. This problem happens more often than it should. It will happen when the handpiece isn't regularly pulled apart from the tubing and cleaned. The handpiece should be pulled off, lubricated, and sterilized after every patient. The motor should be removed and lubricated daily. If you aren't successful at getting it apart, take the handpiece off of the tubing and send it to a professional for further repair.

  • I've noticed a few things around the office that need maintenance regularly. I have trouble with handpiece couplers. What should I be doing on a regular

    We've had a number of monthly practice tip newsletters dedicated to routine maintenance. Practice Tips #34 is a comprehensive list of maintenance to perform on equipment throughout the office & Practice Tip #80 includes routine maintenance, along with other simple things you can do to keep all of your equipment running well. As for your handpiece coupler, maintenance is heavily discussed in PT #9, PT #45, PT #62, PT #65, & PT #66

  • My electric handpiece motor is taking in water, but the handpiece isn't spraying out the water. There must be a clog somewhere. How do I clean it out? Can it go into an ultrasonic cleaner?

    You "can" put it in the ultrasonic, but it would probably ruin the handpiece. Pneumatic handpieces have a removable turbine, so it can go into the ultrasonic, but electric handpieces should not. To get it unclogged (without harming it), you can use a handpiece cleaning wire. Take the wire and run it through the top (coolant port side)- this is the opposite way in which water runs through the handpiece. Debris can get lodged from the bottom up. Another option to try is using high pressure air. A solid blast from the top down with anair/water syringe that has 80 psi will do the trick. Put an o-ring around the end of the syringe tip, so it seals well when you hold it up to the handpiece. The third option is injecting a little CLR into the handpiece with a Monoject syringe and let it sit. Then flush with the suggest a/w syringe (stated above). Be VERY careful that it only goes into the coolant port and flush it REALLY, REALLY well with clean water afterwards. Hopefully one of those solutions will help you unclog your handpiece.

  • I am experiencing inconsistent power coming from my handpiece when I'm using a bur. It appears the pressure reading on the compressor is normal. What should I fix or change to make my handpieces work optimally?

    It is most likely an issue with your turbine (we can help with that) or there could be an issue with your air pressure gauge. Try swapping out one handpiece for one that works and compare the two. What's the air pressure reading at the sources (junction box)? Does the pressure reading change when you run a handpiece? What about if you press the air button on a syringe?

  • From the perspective of performance, what are the differences between a handpiece with the motor attached and one with the motor separated?

    If the rpm's are the same, nothing. The performance should stay the same, but there are different advantages for both styles. The one piece handpiece is ergonomic (shorter & lighter) and easier on the user. Handpieces with a separate motor and attachments will give you more versatility. They will, also, extend the longevity of the handpieces, since you can replace specific components when things start to fail. When purchasing, the initial price for both handpieces will be about the same, but slightly cheaper for the all-in-one handpieces. We explain more in our Practice Tips #71 & #72

  • My cleaning routine for my handpiece is to: 1.) wipe off the handpiece with a damp cloth or towel, 2.) put it through the lubricator, & 3.) bag the handpiece with the bur in and sterilize it in an autoclave. Am I doing this correctly?

    NEVER STERILIZE THE HANDPIECE WITH THE BUR IN! You want the dental bur in when lubricating/cleaning the handpiece prior to sterilization (mostly for manual chuck handpieces), but you don't want to leave the bur in during sterilization. The metal chuck expands in the heat. When the bur is sterilized with the handpiece, you are eliminating the gripping force of the chuck and decrease the life of your handpiece.

  • Why does my handpiece come with a bur after I purchase it?

    Handpieces are shipped with a bur blank, because the vibrations from the shipping process could throw off the suspended chuck and cartridge. It also protects the chuck from getting debris in it and keeps the turbine balanced. The blank is a good item to use when you clean and lubricate your handpiece before use —that way you don't have to use a real bur.

  • Water spray will only work when my high-speed handpiece is at a low rpm. If I take the handpiece off of the coupler, water will work at all rpm's. Is the coupler bad?

    It is a possibility. You can try replacing the coupler with one that you know works just to see if it works better. However, you most likely have a bad o-ring and your "chip air" is set too high. Lucky for you, replacing an o-ring is a quick fix. If you need to know more about couplers, see our Practice Tip #36

  • What is causing my dental turbine to run slower? I run my handpieces at 42 psi and run my handpieces once a week in an automatic handpiece oiler.

    Depending on the brand of your handpiece, for most makes and models, 42psi is on the higher end. Do you have any kind of filter or muffler on the exhaust line? If so, empty or change those out accordingly. If your turbine spins freely, but isn't giving you the proper performance, it is most likely an exhaust issue. The exhaust could be restricted and reducing air pressure; Check for kinks and clogs in the exhaust line.When it comes to the turbine, dirt/debris in the handpiece or exhaust could be affecting your turbine to run slower. You should be cleaning your handpiece every time you sterilize (do it before sterilization). Put a couple drops of lubricant in the drive air and run the handpiece until nothing but oil comes out.

  • I recently changed the bulb in my fiber optic handpiece and it still isn't working. However, the bulb works in another handpiece coupler. What could the problem be and how do I fix it?

    There are a few possible culprits. The wires in the hose could be broken, you might have a bad air switch, or it could be a faulty transformer. The only way to find out is to trace the lines backwards and use a multi-meter to check for power or continuity at each junction. Most likely it is bad wires or the air switch. Lucky for you, we have the parts to replace them.

  • I was replacing the turbine on my Star handpiece, but I ran into the difficulty of removing the front bearings. They are stuck in the housing after I had removed the end cap and turbine. How do I get the rest of it out?

    To remove the rest of the bearing, use a scaling instrument or an explorer to carefully hook it and take it out. Be careful to not damage the handpiece in the process.

  • Why are my straight handpiece attachments spinning occasionally?

    This is likely occurring because your attachments need cleaning and lubrication. It is recommended to lubricate them thoroughly after every use and before sterilization. Your spinning attachment is due to a lower amount of resistance there, than in the actual internal components of the handpiece head (ie the parts making your bur spin).

  • I have a Star handpiece. It is leaking in the spot that bends and the head will move when you wiggle it (looks like it could come apart). Can I fix this myself or is it something I need to have a professional look at?

    It sounds like this is something that will need to be sent in and will require a lot of work. Star might be able to fix it, but it could cost a pretty penny in doing so. Since you have leakage in your handpiece, you probably have an internal coolant line fracture and the shell is coming apart.

  • Do I need to autoclave my electric handpiece every time or is it just the motor that needs to be sterilized?

    It isn't an either or situation. According to the CDC, they recommend heat sterilizing all slow-speed motors, whether they are air or electric. Regardless of the speed of the handpiece, all handpieces, including slow-speed motors, should be sterilized.

  • My Kavo slow-speed motor is locked up and air isn't passing through. I tried lubricating it, but it didn't work. Could it just be jammed?

    Make sure your handpiece's forward/reverse valve is all the way in one direction or the other. If it is in neutral, it won't run. If that isn't the case, it is time to send it to a handpiece repair technician.

  • The tubing on my A-dec non-fiberoptic handpiece has a crack near the connector and is exposing the internal components. Would this be something I could repair on my own?

    If it is the outer sheath is worn and still functional, you could just replace the hose for now. It could be only a matter of time before the internal lines start to wear as well. For a temporary fix, you could use electrical heat-shrink tubing to cover the broken sheath. Ultimately, you will want to replace the handpiece tubing.

  • How does water get into my handpiece's drive air?

    Your handpiece is malfunctioning and getting water in the drive air due to either a ruptured diaphragm or you have worn out coupler o-rings (if your handpiece uses a swivel quick disconnect). If those aren't it, there are other ways this could be happening. Read our Practice Tips #50 & #51 for other possibilities.

  • My button on my Kavo electric handpiece gets really hot to the touch during use after a few seconds. Is this being caused by a water clog?

    If you are having trouble with the water spray (little or no water coming through), then this is a possibility. If not, your handpiece will need to be serviced. The FDA warnings about electrics overheating were due to wear in the handpiece, rather than problems with coolant spray.