Why Operating a Handpiece Hot From the Autoclave Is a Bad Idea

Autoclave in Dentist Office

Have you ever found yourself running short on handpieces and having to use one hot out of the autoclave? If you have, you’re not alone. This is actually a common practice in many offices. In trying to diagnose why handpiece turbines are not lasting as long as they should, this often overlooked practice can be the primary culprit.

The Problem

When you use a steam based autoclave to sterilize your handpieces you should always allow them to cool completely before using them. The reason cooling is required, is that during the autoclave process water condensation forms inside the handpiece.  This includes inside the head of the handpiece where your turbine resides. If you run the handpiece with water inside the head, the water gets into the bearings and works to displace any residual oil or lubricant that may be there. Remember the old saying, water and oil don’t mix. While the turbine spins at about 400,000 RPM, friction causes heat to build up due to the lack of a protective lubricant coating on the bearings. The excessive friction and heat cause damage to the bearings that will eventually make them fail prematurely.

The Solution

The only way to remove the water condensation is to allow the handpiece to cool off slowly, allowing the water to evaporate. The key is cooling them slowly.  Sticking a hot handpiece under running cold water to cool it off quickly is not an effective cooling procedure, because it does not eliminate the condensation. If your autoclave has a drying cycle, you should allow your handpieces to complete the drying process. If you don’t have a drying cycle, you should allow your handpieces to sit  on a counter until it is cool to the touch.

Not having enough handpieces usually causes this problem. You may want to consider adding more handpieces to your rotation if this is a common practice in your office.

My objective is to ensure you achieve the longest life and highest performance levels possible from my handpiece repairs.  Making sure your handpieces completely cool slowly after the autoclave process will allow the water to evaporate from the head which will in turn prolong the life of your turbines.

Please don’t hesitate to give me a call if you have any questions and as always, thank you for giving me a chance to earn your business with each and every repair.