How Should I Maintain My Handpiece?

Are you confused about handpiece maintenance? That's understandable. Recommendations vary and seem to change regularly. A good policy is to follow the manufacturer's recommendations. Also remember "If it works - don't fix it!" That is if you have been both consistent and successful with your maintenance procedures, you probably don't need to change. However, if problems persist you may want to closely review your maintenance procedures. Note: If you are using maintenance free bearings in your handpieces the spindle still requires cleaning and lubrication once a week.


  1. Lubricate Handpiece
    • Place 2-3 drops of oil into the intake tube located at the bottom of the handpiece.
    • Install a bur or precision shipping pin into the chuck of the handpiece.
    • Operate the handpiece for approximately 10 seconds to purge the handpiece with oil and expel.
    • WARNING: Operating the handpiece without a bur in the chuck may cause premature failure of the chuck.
  2. Clean exterior of handpiece
    • Wipe down the exterior of the handpiece with distilled water or alcohol.
    • Remove gross contaminates with a fine wire brush.
    • DO NOT use tap water or phosphate based detergents.
    • DO NOT immerse a handpiece in a cleaning solution.
  3. Sterilize
    • Remove bur or precision shipping pin from the handpiece.
    • Individually bag each handpiece for sterilization.
    • Place handpiece in sterilizer and run cycle.
    • Be sure to use clean chemicals when using a chemical sterilizer.
    • NEVER exceed 135c/275f in the sterilization cycle.
    • NEVER operate a handpiece that is hot to the touch. Allow the handpiece to cool to room temperature before operating.
    • NEVER leave a handpiece in the sterilizer overnight.


  1. Clean Chuck
    • Spray handpiece cleaner into the front of the chuck to remove debris build up.
    • Place 1 drop of oil into the front of the chuck to lubricate.
  2. Follow Steps 1 through 3 above


Also See

Good Practice

  1. Always read and follow the manufacturer's instructions before use.
  2. Specifications vary, however typically air pressure should not exceed 32 PSI for high-speed handpieces and 45 PSI for low-speed handpieces.
  3. Do not tighten the chuck without a bur or bur blank in place to prevent collet damage. Collet damage may occur if chuck is tightened without a bur or bur blank in place.
  4. Do not operate a handpiece without a bur or bur blank securely in place.
  5. Do not depress the push button on a push button handpiece during operation. Doing so may generate excessive heat at the cap.
  6. Do not use the push button handpiece to retract the patient�s cheek or other soft tissue to avoid inadvertently depressing the push button. (see item 5)
  7. Use only bur changing tools designed for the handpiece.
  8. Always store handpieces with a bur blank in place.
  9. Always ship handpieces with a bur blank in place.
  10. Always remove the bur from the handpiece when sterilizing.

Glossary of Handpiece Terms

Air Motor - A slow speed handpiece without integral reduction gears or attachments

Auto Chuck - A mechanism used to change a bur by pressing a button or by raising a latch.

Autoclave - A steam sterilizer that kills living organisms. Temperature is raised to 270 -275F (135C) while the pressure is raised to 30 PSI.

Bearing - A high precision part used to support rotating parts with very low friction.

Bur - A rotary dental instrument, held and revolved in a handpiece. Used to remove carious material within decayed teeth to reduce decayed or fractured hard tissues, to form the design of the cavity preparation, and to finish and polish teeth and restorations. Can be made of high-speed steel, carbide or diamond coated material.

Canister - A closed cylinder that houses a rotating turbine assembly.

Chemiclave - An autoclave that uses chemicals for instrument sterilization. The temperature is generally 270-275�F and the pressure is raised to 30 PSI.

Chip Air - Air supplied to the cutting surface to cool the tooth and flush chips and residual material resulting from the removal of a decayed tooth surface.

Chucks - The part used to hold the cutting or polishing tool (bur).

Connector - There are four types of U.S. standard handpiece connectors. They include the 2-hole (also called a Borden Connector); 3-hole and 4-hole. The 4-hole (also called a Midwest Connector) is the most popular connector. In a 4-hole connector, the holes are (1) drive air, (2) chip air, (3) water and (4) exhaust. Sometimes a 5-hole connector is referenced. The fifth hole represents the fiber optic bundle. Hole locations are determined by an ISO specification.

Contra Angle - An attachment used with a straight or slow speed motor that changes the desired angle to better reach areas in the oral cavity, which are difficult to access.

Drive Air - The air supply used to power an air-driven dental instrument.

"E" Type Motor - Motor which has a standardized male fitment (connection) to accept nosecones or contra angles having the matching female connection.

Exhaust - The air discharged from a dental handpiece.

Fiber Optic Handpiece - A handpiece, which incorporates a fiber optic bundle and light source to facilitate illumination of the oral cavity.

FG or friction Grip Handpiece (or Chuck) - Often incorrectly used to describe a Jacob Chuck Handpiece. The bur is held strictly by friction and is pushed into the chuck using force to overcome the friction caused by the chuck, usually a spring material lining the chuck.

Handpiece - A handheld device, which engages rotary instruments for cutting, cleaning or polishing the teeth. A handpiece can be belt-driven, pneumatic or electric.

High-Speed Handpiece - A handpiece that operates at a speed greater than 100,000 RPM.

Impeller - The part of a high-speed instrument that provides rotation of the cutting tool (bur).

Jacob Chuck - A chucking mechanism that utilizes a chuck key (bur wrench) to tighten the chuck. The chuck has fingers that are closed on the bur when tightened with the bur wrench.

Low-Speed Handpiece - In general, any handpiece used by a dentist or hygienist at speeds less than 100,000 RPM. Sometime referred to as Slow-Speed Handpiece.

Lubricant/Cleaner - A liquid applied to moving parts of a handpiece or attachment in order to reduce friction, heat, or wear, or applied to surfaces in close contact to prevent them adhering to one another. Also includes a solvent for cleaning. May be administered with an aerosol or non-aerosol applicator.

Nosecone - A straight attachment used with a slow speed motor that holds a bur (generally 2.35m) or standard "U" attachment.

Prophy Angle - An angle that attaches to a hygiene type slow speed handpiece or to a contra angle. A prophy angle accepts screw-in brushes on cups or snap-on cups.

Quick-Disconnect - A handpiece attachment or fitting designed to allow easy separation of the handpiece from the supply tubing.

Replacement Cartridge - A cartridge for a high-speed handpiece, which may be inserted into a handpiece at the chair-side.

RPM - Revolutions per minute (RPM) is often used to delineate the types of handpieces. For hygiene 6,000 RPM or less is used; for general lab work 25,000 RPM or less; and for operative and crown & bridge 300,000 RPM and greater.

Straight Handpiece - Same as slow speed handpiece. Often refers to a handpiece with a nosecone permanently "fixed" to the motor.

Turbine - Located in the head of the high speed handpiece, it rotates by the use of compressed air. A high speed handpiece typically consists of five major parts: spindle (or center shaft); chuck; impeller; bearings and "O" rings. Slow speed turbines are different and may be a rotary vane type.

Athena Technologies Glossary & Terms