Dude, where’s my bur?

When it comes to burs, Hussein Hassanali shares with DD how a small change can make a big impact.

Burs, those tiny little diamond encrusted things, so essential to your job. The importance of precision in operative dentistry has significantly increased, especially thanks to the large number of dentists working with magnification. This now requires a broader range of burs to achieve the desired results. To paraphrase the turn of the millennium film, trying to find the right bur for the task at hand can sometimes feel like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Stand to order

While my nurse would be well organised on her half of the surgery, my half was a slightly different story. Ideal bur storage means covered in a drawer or individually pouched. Either option requires filtering through everything which can come across as unprepared, appearing panicked, not knowing what you’re doing or a combination of all three.

Sixty seconds spent looking for a bur could be sixty seconds lost on improving your outcomes. Then imagine if you had to do that a few times in one appointment. That could potentially take up 10-25 per cent of the time you allocated. Or you run late and can tell by how much from the exponential progression of the scowl on your nurse’s face.

There are bur holders with lids to keep them in a drawer. This still means having to remove your gloves and scavenge what you’re after. I decided the easiest thing was to make up pre-arranged bur holders for certain treatments meaning I could quickly get out what I needed without having to search for it. There are still some loose burs, but these are now easier to scan with less to sift through.

Look the part

Dentistry requires methodology. I’ve always tried to keep the surgery as clean and minimalistic as possible, with the exception of my bur drawer. Bur holders have meant that this last drawer no longer looks like it’s the one where random leftover stuff has been thrown in.

Overall, the surgery workflow is improved which is better for both staff and patients. You can’t predict for every possible outcome or eventuality, but treating teeth does necessitate having to think on your feet at times. With a frequently used range of burs in your holders you’re able to change tactics seamlessly and efficiently. Slick manoeuvres like this can help to instil confidence in your patients.


Burs can be treated through your decontamination process individually or in holders. Good infection control should leave enough room around each to allow for full cleaning at all stages of the process. Having them in holders keeps them stable, uniformly apart, and stops them from falling into each other. Holders can also prevent burs from getting misplaced somewhere along the line.

Best practice for storage of burs is that they are individually pouched. Yet if I were to do this, I wouldn’t have space for the hundred or so pouches in my drawer. I definitely wouldn’t have the patience to go through the pile several times a day. Bur holders allow me to work to best practice as each bur is not only in a holder but is also pouched. This looks neat and shows inspectors that if you’re paying attention to small details such as this, then you’re very aware of your responsibilities.

Business corner

Burs can go missing in a myriad of different ways. They can be forgotten at the bottom of dirty boxes, disappear in ultrasonic baths, accidently get flushed down plugholes and drop on surgery floors - to name but a few. The last thing you want is a child accidentally finding one and putting it in their mouth. When kept securely in a holder, there’s no risk of them getting lost, thus saving time, money and even a potential medical emergency.

While burs may seem comparatively cheap compared to some items, costs can soon mount up if you’re having to replace them regularly. I’ve probably got several dead weight burs lying around in my drawer too that are blunt and ineffective now. When set in holders, I can easily tell when one has served me well and replace only what’s needed while maintaining stock control and keeping down replenishment costs.

Savings on pouches is another small daily saving that may not seem immediately obvious but can accumulate over time. Practices that thrive are usually those with robust methods that don’t require constant reviewing for ways to make improvements. This means that all staff can focus on what you’re really there for, treating patients.

Having a good system for burs is another cog in the wheels towards working to this goal.

For further product information and promotional prices related to this article, please contact Lee Ballinger at ‎Lee.Ballinger@ddgroup.com or on 07548 130589.


Autor biography: Hussein graduated from the University of Liverpool in 2009 and is an NHS Associate Dentist in York. He has a broad range of experience having worked in both NHS and private and both corporate and independent practices. He is working towards completing his PG Diploma in Restorative Dentistry and has a keen interest in preventative and minimally invasive dentistry. To date he has over twenty publications to his name and continues to support the profession through his regular contributions.