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Tech Tips #64: Asdex AS-9 Amalgam Separator Installation

The American Dental Association has listed amalgam separators as a component of their BMP’s (best management practices) for handling of amalgam waste for many years. Many areas (cities, counties, and some states) now also require the installation of amalgam separators in dental offices. We have devised a cost-effective and easy-to-maintain system that can be installed in just four easy steps.

Can’t see the video? You can also view this video on YouTube.

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Tech Tips #63: What’s Up With Chucks?

What to look for in your next handpiece purchase:

There are a wide variety of high-speed handpieces on the market today. There are a host of features and benefits to various makes and models, but one of the most basic decisions a practitioner must make when choosing a handpiece is what type of chucking mechanism to use (i.e. how is the bur retained and changed?).

There are two basic types of chucking mechanism from which to choose: autochucks and manual (also referred to as “standard” or “wrench”) chucks.

An autochuck does not require the use of any other tools to open and close the chuck. The turbine is constructed with a spring-loaded cylinder at the center (the chuck), which is usually factory installed into the handpiece spindles (the central “shaft” of a turbine), so they are effectively one piece. A very small button (“actuator”) is at one end of the spindle, allowing one to depress the chuck moving it forward within the spindle and causing it to open. A mechanism of some sort (most commonly a large push button, but Midwest also has their Power Lever™) is, in turn, incorporated into the end cap of the handpiece, which pushes on the actuator causing it to open and release (or allow insertion of) a bur.

A manual chuck is also a hollow cylinder within the spindle, but rather than being spring-loaded, it is simply threaded into place. A manual chuck is tapered at the front and split so that it will open and close as it is moved backward and forward.

Most manual chucks have a square hole in the back end, allowing insertion of a specialized tool (bur wrench) to rotate the chuck clockwise to tighten and counter-clockwise to loosen (like most threads one might encounter in typical fasteners – “lefty loosey, righty tighty”). The spindle, in turn, will have some sort of mechanism (slots, holes or even a square piece that protrudes out the front of the handpiece), which a separate portion of the bur wrench will engage to hold the rest of the turbine stable while one rotates the chuck with the square shaft at the center of the tool.

Now that we know how chucks work, we can determine what other benefits there are to the different designs to best determine what’s best for you.

A wrench chuck is generally less costly than a push button (auto chuck) handpiece. It is also more resilient being a much simpler design from a mechanical standpoint (just a simple hollow threaded shaft rather than using springs and other tension devices). Additionally, the way that a wrench chuck closes makes it more flexible (you can easily leave the chuck in a given position to accommodate different sized burs as opposed to an auto chuck which will always clamp down as soon as the chuck is released). Wrench chucks are simply changed if they wear or fracture (auto chucks are normally incorporated into the spindle and aren’t usually replaced without also replacing the spindle – this requires using a handpiece repair press).

It is very common for all chucks to get clogged with debris. With a wrench chuck it is usually easier to get more leverage to “crack” the chuck open. Some wrenches are even made of 1/4″ hex stock, so you can use an open-end wrench on the bur wrench to free a stuck chuck. With autochucks, it can be very difficult to free once stuck. Sometimes, all you can do is pull on the bur with pliers, which does not always work.

The only real drawback to the wrench chuck is that you need to use an extra tool to change burs. This makes bur changing more time consuming and difficult. You might have an extra item in the operatory that requires cleaning and sterilization, as well as an extra item to purchase and keep track of. If you lose the wrench, you won’t be able to change burs.

Autochucks afford much greater convenience, however, so they are extremely popular. Many handpiece models are only available in push button.

The next time you’re shopping for a new handpiece, think about how you change burs and know that there is more to the equation than convenience or ease of use.

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Tech Tips #62: Star 430 Push Button Turbine Installation- Video

Install your Star 430 push button turbine in minutes! Watch this video to see just how easy it can be.

For more handpiece installation information, see our Dental Handpiece Turbine Installation video.

Can’t see the video? You can also view this video on Youtube.

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Tech Tips #61: Foot Controls (not just to drive your handpiece).

The foot control or, more properly, rheostat is a key component to your delivery system. Air passes through the foot control when you step on it to drive your handpieces, but this is not all a foot control does.

All foot controls will have one main large (1/4” o.d.) line that feeds air into the foot control. This line will be “ribbed” and appears to be a seam running along the length of the line. This raised portion is there to identify the “air-in” line.

A “standard” foot control has two large lines (as depicted above). The “ribbed” line is air into the foot control, and the smooth line is air out (when the foot control is depressed).

On most units (Marus, Beaverstate, DCI, etc.) the air outlet line from the foot control connects to a single large line at the end of the umbilical, which then connects to a routing manifold (#49-83). The routing manifold then splits the drive air to send air to the air coolant adjustment knob, an air signal to the water on/off toggle (and then to the water relay), as well as a line to the drive air port of the handpiece block. So, while stepping on the foot control running your handpiece (and allows you to control the speed of the handpiece) it also provides the air and water coolant to the handpiece.

On most A-dec units, the foot control has two blocks connected together underneath the foot control dome. The main block is simply drive air-in and out, the secondary block (often called the signal relay) also receives the drive air from the main block and splits it to send a signal through one small line to activate the coolant water, and occasionally a second small line for coolant air. Normally, none of these foot control lines are fed through the umbilical. They attach to color-coded lines in the umbilical, which then attach to a manifold in the unit for ultimate connection to the handpiece blocks. Many A-dec units have the manifold mounted directly to the assembly of blocks, depending on the specific model of A-dec unit.

If the foot control has a water on/off toggle (pictured in the diagram below), the unit must be configured to accept it. The additional split of drive air for water activation is not present at the routing valve in the unit (the outlet port is blocked). Instead, there is an extra outlet port on the valve in the foot control, which feeds through the toggle and then normally attaches to an extra line in the umbilical (often green or green with a black stripe), then feeds directly to the water relay (this is an air activated valve inside the unit that turns the water to the handpieces off and on). This way, the water is not automatically turned on every time the foot control is depressed. Additionally, there is no water on/off toggle on the unit.

For foot controls with a button (pictured in the diagram below), there is once again an extra outlet from the main foot control valve that feeds to the button when the foot control is depressed. This simply changes where the drive air is split. Sometimes the button is used for coolant air that is fed directly to the block (bypassing the needle valve for a great burst of air through the coolant ports). It can also still be fed through the coolant needle valve to allow for adjustment of flow. A-dec normally uses a green line with a black stripe in the umbilical for coolant air (same as water activation line); other manufacturers have a tendency to use different colors. Of course, the button can also be used to send a signal to an air activated electric switch for an ultrasonic scaler or electro-surge, etc.

Ultimately, the only difference in all the foot controls is where and how the drive air splits and what sort of additional on/off control there may be for the split air. For foot controls with accessories and multi-line A-dec units, the split occurs within the foot control and all the lines are ultimately hooked up the same (extra small line of 3 hole foot control is always for water coolant activation, unless the foot control has a button). For two-line non-A-dec units, the split is in the unit.

Last of all, there are occasional exceptions to the rules. For example: Beaverstate’s two handpiece units tend to have the foot control tubing run directly up to the unit and attach to the routing valve directly.

As you can see, the air from the foot does much more than just drive your handpiece. When replacing your foot control make sure  that your new foot control is properly configured for your delivery system, otherwise you will lose key functions.

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Tech Tips #60: Keep It Flowing, Maintain Your Filters

We’ve covered maintenance of various devices in the dental office in previous issues of Tech Tips. One of the key elements of routine maintenance is filtration. Periodic replacement of filter elements is at the core of a good maintenance routine. It’s amazing how often we talk with people who don’t even know some of their filters exist, let alone take the time to maintain them. This month, we’re going to run down some of the basics of filtration and where you need to look for filters to be sure to keep your equipment running well.

Two of the most commonly overlooked filters are the air and water filters in your junction box, so look for them where the air and water come into the operatory.  Every dental unit should have a master valve on the main air and water lines (the water master may be absent if you don’t have a connection to your municipal water supply). Master valves control on/off of the air or water and will almost always have a filter incorporated as well.

Two common styles of master valve are shown below:

The second master valve shown incorporates our EZ-view filter housing. Most master valves have a filter housing that is opaque, often chrome-plated, so the filter is not as obvious as it is on our valve.

As you can see in the photos, both styles of master have a filter within a cylindrical housing. Most filter elements are round or cylindrical, so look for components with that shape.

Of course, air is filtered before it gets to the junction box as well. There are both inlet and outlet filters on your compressor.

You compressor should draw in fresh air from outside. The air inlet will have a filter to remove impurities from the air. Your inlet filter should be checked quarterly and will usually need to be replaced annually.

Intake filters come in many shapes, sizes, and forms. A few examples are pictured below:

Your compressor should also have a line dryer to remove moisture from the air. While not strictly a filter, the dryer will treat the air and remove foreign bodies, much as do filters. Your dryer will also work in combination with one or more filters. You will have a water and solids particle filter and if your compressor is oil lubricated, you’ll also have a coalescing filter to remove any oil residue.

The drying tank shown above is a desiccant tank which is what we recommend. Most desiccant tanks are self-regenerating, using the compressed air to dry the desiccant beads and purging excess moisture as well. The filters that work with the tank are also self-purging so element changes should be infrequent. Nonetheless , we also recommend quarterly inspection of these filters just to be sure they are functioning properly as it doesn’t take long for problems to develop should something go wrong. There is no routine replacement schedule, however, they should be replaced strictly on an “as needed” basis.

While in your mechanical room, you should also check your central vacuum. Wet vacuums will have a filter on the water inlet. This filter is extremely important to function of a wet vacuum as debris in the water line can damage a wet vacuum pump. Clogs in this filter will also impede water flow and can thus impact your vacuum pressure reducing the effectiveness of your system. This means it’s imperative that you keep an eye on your water inlet filter. Usually debris builds up over time, so quarterly inspections should be adequate.

There will also be a particulate filter on the vacuum line feeding into the system from the ops. This helps to keep your drain lines clean and flowing well. The same type of filter is often used on both the water inlet and vacuum main lines, a simple mesh element in a clear plastic bowl to facilitate inspection.

As the above filter goes on the main water or vacuum drain lines, the inlet and outlet fittings have female pipe thread. It’s generally pretty easy to adapt from one size of pipe thread to another, but we also show pipe thread profiles at actual size in our catalog and on our web site for comparison so you can purchase a filter to match your existing pipe.

It’s important to note that there are MANY sizes of filters like this so measure what you have before purchasing a replacement. We can also cross-reference Pinnacle part numbers for our replacement filter cartridges of this type.

Anywhere in the dental office that there is air or water there should also be filtration. Don’t forget your sterilizer! Autoclaves have filters on the water line that feeds into the chamber. These filters should be changed as part of your routine annual maintenance.  They can become clogged more quickly than this, however, so it’s wise to check them quarterly as well.

Most sterilizers use sintered bronze filters like the one pictured above, although many also use stainless steel screens or other filter media. Consult your owner’s manual to determine what type of filter your sterilizer uses and where it is located. If clogged you will often see debris coating the filter but it will also often become discolored, pitted, or can even crack (although this may be a sign of other problems in your sterilizer).

There are a number of critical pieces of equipment in your office that rely on pressurized air and or water, all of these have filters to remove various types of foreign matter from your lines and keep functioning well. Keep an eye on your filters to make sure your equipment keeps working well.

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Tech Tips #59: How to Install a Handpiece Illumination System- Video

Anyone can add a handpiece illumination system to a dental unit in minutes. Watch this video on just how simple it can be!

Can’t see the video? You can also view this video on Youtube.

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Using just a 301 Elevator to Extract a Wisdom Tooth

In the following video, Dr. Tommy Murph of South Carolina shows how to extract a wisdom tooth using just a 301 elevator he purchased from American Dental Accessories.

He extracts #17 in less than one minute just using this single instrument.

*note this video features graphic content of oral surgery. We are posting for viewing by dental professionals only. Viewer discretion is strongly advised.

Extraction with just a 301

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Tech Tips #58: Japanese-Style Handpieces

In previous issues of Tech Tips, we’ve discussed various aspects of handpieces, including dental handpiece maintenance, dental handpiece design, and factors that influence dental handpiece torque.

As we discussed, one of the factors that influences torque is the turbine in your highspeed handpiece. This month, we’re going to look at the “Japanese” style dental highspeed handpieces to see what sets this type of handpiece apart.

The Japanese style dental handpiece design is the most popular highspeed in the world. It was originally designed and manufactured in Japan, hence the name. However, Japanese style handpieces are now manufactured all over the world. This design has been used for decades by a wide range of manufacturers. As it is so widely used, many also refer to these as “generic” or “universal” dental handpieces.  Naturally, being widely used means that there are a great number of “brand names” that appear on Japanese style handpieces as the Japanese style has been very commonly used for “house brand” handpieces as well (such as our own American highspeed series #15-30, 15-31, 15-32 & 15-33). Note that these same brand names appear on handpieces that also use other dental turbines (most notably, NSK) so it’s important to know the model and not just the manufacturer.

The Japanese style handpiece offers a good combination of reliability, size (for superior access and vision), torque, and convenience. The “standard” Japanese handpiece has a smaller head than many other handpieces so it affords good access and visibility.

However, for those who require a particularly small head, these handpieces also come in “mini” (small head) size. The mini head handpiece is often popular with pediatric specialists, although smaller size for easy access can be beneficial to many practitioners (GP & specialist alike).

For those who require more torque, you can also purchase a Japanese style handpiece with a “supergrade” (large) head. The larger bearings and impeller of the “supergrade” will typically yield more power.

As with most handpieces, the Japanese style is also offered with options such as fiber optics and a push-button chuck or even a swivel quick disconnect coupler for added convenience

One of the key ways to differentiate the Japanese style handpiece is the turbine. Japanese style handpieces can be used with a standard “canister” turbine (or just “can” for short). A canister turbine has the same components as any other turbine (see our issue on dental handpiece design) but the entire turbine is then encased in a metal shell, or canister. The canister encloses the bearings, o’rings, washers, and other components so there is no need to take the care with these components as one would with other turbines.

15-80 standard Japanese canister

A typical canister turbine

As the components are encased, canister-style turbines are EXTREMELY simple, straight-forward, and easily replaced in just a few seconds by any member of staff. None of the o’rings, washers, or other delicate components are loose or exposed so you don’t have to worry about proper handling of them. One cannot twist o’rings, get washers out of place, or run into any of the other common “user errors” during installation of a canister turbine. This means canister turbines can even be replaced chairside in just a few seconds.

Simple turbine changes make the Japanese style handpiece the easiest, quickest, and most economical to service. No need to send it out. No need to spend a great deal of time making sure that you have removed all of the old turbine components and cleaning out handpiece heads. Just push the old canister turbine out and pop the new canister turbine in.

You’ll note in the above photo, the standard canister has flat ends, like a can of soup. There are a wide range of other turbines in shells that are not standard canisters. These turbines will taper at one end or the other, bear o’rings on the exterior, have extra grooves or notches, or possess other distinguishing features.

A pair of non-standard canister turbines

A pair of non-standard canister turbines

In order to keep the turbine properly oriented within the handpiece head, the canister turbine will have a “lock pin” on the top of the canister. Most manufacturers affix a small ball bearing to the top of the canister turbine to serve this purpose. Sometimes there is a raised area manufactured into the canister shell instead. Either way, this projection needs to be lined up with a small notch in the top of the handpiece head. The lock pin keeps the canister turbine stable within the handpiece head, which is important as the canister has two holes cut in it for passage of drive air and exhaust air. The holes in the canister must line up with the drive air and exhaust air holes at the bottom of the handpiece head for it to function. You can see how the lock pin engages in our turbine installation video in Tech Tips or our You Tube channel.

Naturally, the turbine will change for the mini head and supergrade head handpieces which use “mini” (small) and “supergrade” (large) versions of the standard can. These variations on the canister turbine have the same “soup can” shape but are smaller or larger in size.

Canister turbines are also economical as they usually are available at some of the lowest prices of any turbine on the market. Of course, there are many brands at various prices and not all canister turbines are created equal (even though they share the same design and should be interchangeable). Most canister turbines on the market carry a 90 day warranty. American Dental Accessories, Inc. will warranty all canister turbines for 6 full months, twice the industry standard.

When looking for a solid, reliable, easily serviced and economical handpiece, the Japanese style can serve very well in the typical dental office.

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Charity Trip to Guatemala and get 40 CE credits!

Once again, Doctors Tommy Murph and Gayle Fletcher are planning another hands-on course for up to 40 PACE credits – this time in poverty-stricken Guatemala.
They’ll be extending humanitarian aid to impoverished citizens while providing instruction to dentists to refine techniques of exodontia.
Three full days of hands-on instruction and 16 hours of lecture are planned from June 30th through July 4th.
Their comprehensive instruction will cover everything from simple extractions to complex horizontal 3rd molars. Learn techniques for removing teeth with minimal trauma and how to handle complications if and when they arise.
Techniques in delivering anesthesia, suturing, laying flaps, instrument selection and use will all be discussed and demonstrated.
Additionally, those who complete the course will be armed with information on how to handle complications such as bleeding, sinus perforations and swelling.
CE packages are available for the full course (including hands-on work) or for the lecture only.

Send an e-mail to for full details including course fees.

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Tech Tips #57: Convert a Screw-On Style HP into a Swivel QD- Video

Improve ergonomics by installing a swivel quick-disconnect onto your handpiece. This video demonstrates just how easy it is to convert a screw-on style handpiece into a swivel quick-disconnect.

Can’t see the video? You can also view this video on Youtube.

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