Safety Investigation of Patient Burns
Associated with Electric Dental Handpieces and Electric Oral Bone-cutting
Sept 23, 2010
Dentists, Dental Hygienists, Dental Assistants
Electric dental handpieces and electric oral bone-cutting handpieces are
AC-powered hand-held devices used to prepare dental cavities for restorations, such as
fillings, and for cleaning teeth. For the purposes of this communication, is the term
“handpiece” includes the motor, contrangle, and burr.
SUMMARY OF PROBLEM AND
The FDA is again alerting dental professionals that serious patient burns can
occur when electric dental handpieces overheat during dental procedures. Burns may not be
apparent to the operator or the patient until after the tissue damage has occurred,
because the anesthetized patient cannot feel the tissue burning and the handpiece housing
insulates the operator from the heated attachment. These burns range from first degree
burns to third degree burns requiring reconstructive surgery.
The FDA first informed dental professionals of this
problem in 2007 (see
Public Health Notification: Patient Burns from Electric Dental
Handpieces). In that notice, the FDA reminded users of the
importance of properly maintaining the handpieces. Since the notice, the FDA has received
numerous additional reports of patients being burned by electric dental
The FDA is recommending that dental professionals:
Be vigilant about maintaining electric dental handpieces and electric
oral bone cutting handpieces according to the manufacturer’s
Verify with the manufacturer the appropriate routine service interval
for your dental practice, based on the actual use of your electric dental
handpiece or electric intraoral bone cutting handpieces.
Train personnel to properly clean and maintain the electric dental
handpiece or electric intraoral bone cutting handpiece.
Develop a method for tracking maintenance and routine service for each
dental handpiece or electric intraoral bone cutting handpiece.
Examine the electric dental handpiece attachments and electric intraoral
bone cutting handpiece attachments prior to use. Do not use worn drills or
Do not use poorly maintained electric dental handpieces or electric
intraoral bone cutting handpieces.
Report overheating to the manufacturer.