Internal contamination of air-driven low-speed handpieces and attached prophy angles

Judith R. Chin, Chris H. Miller, Charles John Palenik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Scopus citations


Background. In an in vitro crossover study, the authors investigated whether the interior of low-speed handpiece/prophy-angle systems becomes contaminated during operation and submersion into Geobaeillus stearothermophilus. Methods. This study involved two types of handpieces attacked to eight brands of prophy angles. The researchers operated angles attached to sterile handpieces for 60 seconds. They then analyzed the inside surfaces of the angle, nosecone and motor. They tested each prophy angle and handpiece 10 times. Results. In the 160 tests of handpieces contaminated at the prophy cup end, the spores traveled into the motor gears 32 times (20 percent). In the other 160 tests in which the motor gears were contaminated, the test bacterium traveled through the prophy cup in 75 instances (47 percent). Conclusions. The in vitro data suggest that low-speed handpiece motors can become contaminated internally during use with prophy angles. Also, internal contaminants appear to have been released from the handpiece. Clinical Implications. The results suggest that low-speed handpieces can become contaminated internally during use. Unless low-speed handpieces are sterilized properly between patients, they may become cross-contaminated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1275-1280
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Dental Association
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2006


  • Equipment contamination
  • Geobacillus stearothermophilus
  • Handpiece
  • Infection control
  • Prophy angle
  • Sterilization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)

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