A dental handpiece is one of the most relied-upon tools in your practice and dentists and practitioners often feel a personal affinity for the one they work with every day — the handpiece is like an extension of your very own hand. At Star®, we have been creating lifelong relationships between practitioners and their handpieces that often started in dental school. We understand how you depend on our quality and precision, and that is built into every component of our designs. When your handpiece needs a repair, the same attention to detail and quality prevails. One of the most repaired components is the turbine, and we’re learning that the after-market turbines that sometimes end up in your hands are affecting the quality you’ve come to expect from our handpieces. Not every turbine is made equally! Let’s break it down.
Are you changing your turbine more than once a year?
If so, there’s a very good chance you’re purchasing an after-market turbine. This can be costly and disruptive to say the least.
Star handpieces are handcrafted in the United States, to the highest standards. There are unfortunately many after-market replacement part brands on the market, and it’s easy to purchase one of those accidentally. There is not a lot of regulation or information at the point of sale, and even retailers and repair shops may not realize they are buying inferior parts.
Turbines seem innocuous enough but there can be significant differences in quality with what is available.
Components Inside a Dental Handpiece Turbine
The three main components that comprise the turbine inside your dental handpiece include bearings, an impeller, and spindles, all of which can break down over time. This is most commonly due to normal wear.
Just as there are varying degrees of quality, durability, craftsmanship, precision, and strength across handpieces, the components inside are also crafted to differing standards. The quality of these components has a lot to do with the lifespan of the turbine. We’re so confident in the quality of our Star turbine components that ours come with a 1- or 2-year warranty.
The Consequences of an Inferior Turbine?
A less expensive and lower-quality turbine can mean a shorter lifespan before you’ll have to spend the time and money to replace it again. This can have a negative impact on the performance by your Star handpiece, and more significantly, an increased risk of injury to your patients or staff.
A typical, disruptive, and potentially dangerous example is in the spindle. A high-quality turbine like ours is crafted with additional spindle arms to hold the bur deeper inside the handpiece despite the constant abrasion. Lower quality turbines may have fewer spindle arms, leading to a less secure hold on the shank of the bur, which decreases the grip strength. This significantly increases the likelihood of the bur being quickly unseated potentially causing the kind of unpredictable slippage that leads to cutting a patient’s mouth or a practitioner’s hand.
Typical “symptoms” of a lower-quality turbine include:
- Burs aren’t spinning properly, causing rattling or inconsistent power.
- Burs are falling out.
- Burs won’t start turning without extra manual manipulation.
The Cost of a Bargain: Let’s Do the Math
Let’s run a quick cost-benefit analysis. Let’s use a typical after-market turbine cost of repair, which can range from $150-$200. This is consistently about half the cost of the repair using a Star turbine, which can run closer to $400-$500. Many after-market turbines tend to last about
5-6 months, while ours last 1-2 years, depending on if they’re lubricated or LubeFree. We are so confident in the quality of our manufacturing that all Star turbines come with a 1- or 2-year warranty, depending on the lubrication. Therefore, if the turbine was to be compromised earlier, you would be covered.
So best-case scenario, you’re breaking even with the inferior turbine. However, more often than not, rather than saving money, you’re dealing with more frequent maintenance costs that add up quickly, plus the “price” associated with relinquishing your handpiece while it’s out for repair. There is also a life-shortening cost in wear and tear on your handpiece as it struggles to pair with an inferior turbine, so you are likely replacing your expensive handpiece more often. Most concerning, you’re increasing risk, and when you factor in the price of an accident, the opportunity cost can skyrocket quickly.
Ask the Right Questions
You probably don’t know when you send your handpiece in for repair which turbine you’re getting. You may assume you’re getting a Star turbine, or you may not have even realized there were after-market options. You may just be focused on quickly getting your handpiece to a repair shop you trust, at a price and pace that you factor into your cost of doing business.
It is worth asking which turbines they use. It’s possible they’re not even sure as there are a lot of options and very little clarity and regulation because turbines are not rated by any standards. By themselves they are not considered a medical device.
The next question to ask is about the warranty your repair shop offers. If they only guarantee their work for 6 months, they’re using an inferior part. House brands will come with their warranty (6 months); ours will come with our manufacturer’s warranty (1-2 years). Ultimately, the best way to be sure is to send your repairs to a certified Star repair shop.
Case study: Jordan Ellis, our sales representative in Pennsylvania, recently had a dental practice contact him. They were concerned with the frequency with which their 6 Star handpieces needed service. Each handpiece needed a repair every 3-6 months. Upon fast inspection, Jordan found that each was fitted with inferior turbines. The practice manager had an automatic system in place, requesting “authentic” parts, but that wasn’t being honored.
“Inferior parts don’t just create more need for maintenance, they actually damage the Star handpiece, so they really DO shorten the lifespan of our handpieces, ultimately causing faster replacement” says Ellis. “We’ve made our handpieces to be precise; to provide maximum power, maximum output, and minimal noise. You put a piece that’s not made to fit our specifications and there’s not much we can do. If there’s too much room in the housing for example, there can be rattling or interference with the housing… the torque rating could go down… the noise level probably increases. The handpiece simply won't perform the same — from comfort to precision to power to safety.”
Two weeks vs. two minutes: Cost effective Dental Turbine replacement!
There is a cost associated with handpiece repair especially when you send it out for repair. You lose access to one of your most valuable and personalized tools, commonly for about two weeks.
Another option entirely offers additional cost-saving opportunities both in time and materials. We can reduce the traditional two-week repair window to less than 2 minutes, in the office. With an in-house turbine replacement, you essentially eliminate the need for that kind of downtime, and your favorite handpiece doesn’t have to leave your practice. Watch our handy/fast tutorial to get a sense of just how easy it is.
A lot of dentists don’t realize they are buying an aftermarket, and unfortunately, inferior turbine, to repair their Star handpiece. It’s easy to make this mistake as the information at point-of-sale isn’t always clear, and we can’t always control who uses our name or misinforms their customers. The best way to tell is by looking for the Star logo imprinted on the turbine itself, and we do recommend buying either directly from us or from a trusted dealer. There is also a unique serial number that can identify the production timeframe as to when it was made in the plant, as well as uniquely identifying the warranty when registered and paired up with the serial number of the handpiece in the office.
If you’re sending your handpieces out for repair, express your preference for a Star turbine with your vendor, or consider sending your handpiece to a certified Star repair shop. Ultimately, using a certified Star turbine in your Star handpiece will save you time and money, extend the life of your handpiece, and decrease the risk of unwanted accidents. Total peace of mind!