The in vivo contamination of air-driven low-speed handpieces with prophylaxis angles

Sarah Herd, Judith Chin, Charles John Palenik, Susan Ofner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Scopus citations


Background. The authors conducted an in vivo study to determine if low-speed handpiece motors can become contaminated with oral flora when used with prophylaxis angles. Methods. This crossover study involved 20 subjects, two types of handpieces and three prophylaxis angles. The authors used each handpiece/prophylaxis angle system to polish teeth. They then collected samples, spiral-plated the specimens and incubated them at 37°C anaerobically and aerobically (with 5 percent carbon dioxide). After incubation, the authors examined the plates for the presence of bacterial colonies. Results. At least 75 percent of the handpiece/prophylaxis angle systems used on the 20 subjects had bacterial contamination for at least one cultured area. Of the 420 specimens, 258 (61.4 percent) produced bacterial growth. Contamination varied from zero to 6,300 colony-forming units per milliliter. Conclusions. These data suggest that the internal surfaces of low-speed handpieces can become microbially contaminated during use with prophylaxis angles. Clinical Implications. Unless low-speed handpieces are sterilized properly after each use, they pose a risk for crossinfection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1360-1365
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Dental Association
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2007


  • Contamination
  • Handpiece
  • Infection control
  • Prophylaxis angle
  • Sterilization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)

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