The handpiece is, without doubt, the most important tool in a dentist’s arsenal.* At the heart of those essential tools are the dental handpiece turbines. It whirrs to life at the press of a button and spins at speeds of up to 400,000 rpm.
Like the dentist who holds it, a dental handpiece is only useful for as long as its mechanical ‘heart’ is beating. But how long do dental handpiece turbines last?
It’s an important question, given that these tools represent a large capital expenditure for dentists.
How Long Can You Expect Dental Handpiece Turbines to Last?
It’s not all about the make and model, though that is a big factor.
There are so many variables that impact how long dental handpiece turbines will last. Many of these factors have to do with lubrication and sterilization. What type of sterilization you use, and how many sterilization cycles the piece is subject to each day, will impact the lifespan of the turbine.
What we can tell you is this: the typical handpiece can survive approximately 500 sterilization cycles without experiencing performance issues. Assuming you sterilize it twice per day, that is.
How do we know this? Because the United States Air Force Dental Investigative Service** did an extensive study on the issue. The Clinical Research Associates published a similar study years later, which yielded similar results.
Finding Repair Parts for Dental Handpieces
When a turbine stops working, rather than swallowing the cost of an entirely new handpiece, you have the option of replacing the old turbine with a new one (assuming the rest of the tool is still in good shape.)
Before the turn of the century, it was standard procedure to send a broken handpiece to the original manufacturer for repair. Today, thanks to wider availability, you have several options when it comes to finding repair parts for dental handpieces:
- Option A: return the handpiece to the original equipment manufacturer.
- Option B: purchase a new turbine from the original manufacturer and install it yourself.
- Option C: purchase an aftermarket or generic turbine and install it yourself.
If you want to guarantee quality and consistency, option A is the way to go. However, depending on the manufacturer (and your relationship with them), this option could also come with significant labour costs.
Options B and C are more cost-effective, since finding repair parts for dental handpieces is easier than ever thanks to the Internet. However, you will only save money in the long run if you ensure the new turbine is installed properly. Otherwise, you could end up having to invest in a whole new handpiece. For this, you can turn to a local repair service for help.
*I think it’s fair to refer to a dentist’s range of tools an ‘arsenal’, given how sharp and pointy they are.
**Yes, this is a thing.