A Well-Functioning Handpiece Goes a Long Way towards a Great Experience for Patients
As a dentist, your primary concern is likely providing an exceptional experience for your patients. This starts from the very moment they first book an appointment, continues into the treatment room, and stays with them long after they’ve gone home. A good experience is something that transforms a one-time patient into a returning patient with whom you can build a solid dentist-patient relationship. While there are many factors in their experience—including but not limited to the colour scheme of your waiting room (yes, it’s true), your attitude, and a successful procedure—one is often overlooked: the condition of your tools. A dental handpiece is as essential to you as a lasso is to a cowboy, but if it’s not taken care of properly, then it can lead to injury, infection, discomfort, and can even contribute to dental phobia!
What Happens when I Neglect Handpiece Repair?
Like any machine with moving parts, your drills are subject to all kinds of wear and tear. This is likely always going to be a basic truth of technology. Friction—which produces heat and wears down components—is a primary contributor. In high-speed units, wear can lead to the bur deflecting, slipping out, or not rotating concentrically. In low-speed units, this can cause latch burs to stick and wobble and wear down the head spindle. In all units, poor repair can cause reduced performance and the handpiece overheating.
How Does This Affect My Patients?
Neglecting to follow through on regular handpiece repair and maintenance can, at best, make your patients uncomfortable and, at worst, lead to dire consequences. Dental phobia, for example, is a very real and documented phenomenon, and a unit that is operating at less-than-full capacity may produce more noise. Worse yet, it could produce an uneven, worrisome noise that sets your patients on edge.
Worse yet, though, is the potential for physical harm. The heat produced by a machine operating healthily at several thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of revolutions per minute is manageable, but when it begins to operate inefficiently, a handpiece can cause burns to the patient’s cheeks, tongue, and gums. A bur that’s not rotating can cause lacerations no matter how careful you are with the unit.
And then there’s health—a worn-down handpiece can become a breeding ground for infection, as dirt and biological matter becomes trapped in the inner workings, unable to be removed during regular cleaning and sterilization.
The Best Course of Action
Keeping on top of regular dental handpiece repair and maintenance is the key to making sure this aspect of your patients’ experience never falls short. Never let this fall be the wayside—as soon as you begin to suspect that a unit is operating inefficiently, you should seek out professional maintenance. Using the right repair and replacement parts, as well as industry-leading expertise, is the best way to ensure that your handpieces—and your patients—are always well looked-after.