Everything you need to know to buy the right Podiatry Bur
Having the right tool for the right job is a basic need to excel in any occupation; being a Podiatrist is no exception. There are 1000’s of different burs – carbide burs, tungsten burs, diamond burs, ceramic burs… The list goes on and on.
The vast amount of different types of Podiatry bur available on the market makes selecting the right bur for you a challenging task.
There are often different types of Podiatry bur which are able to complete the same job, but finding the type of bur that you personally can excel with is a bit harder.
Efficiency in treating each patient and the standard you achieve in your work is heavily dependent on your bur selection.
What is a Podiatry bur?
As a Podiatrist, you’ll be acutely aware of exactly what a bur is. For those who are not in the field, it is a small rotating tool with an abrasive surface which is used to debride excess toe nail (e.g. Onychauxis) and skin (e.g. hyperkeratosis) by a Podiatrist.
There are a myriad of different burs in different shapes and made with different materials – each with different properties, capabilities and ability in different environments. It’s important to know the difference between the various options so that you can combine this knowledge with your personal preference. This information will hopefully aid in making the hard choice of ‘which bur is best’ for you as a Podiatrist.
Types of Podiatry Burs
Diamond Podiatry Burs
A diamond bur should be used when only minimal filing needs to occur. It gives a great finish on a the nail – leaving a desirable, smooth surface. If a thicker nail with increased filing requirements needs to be treated, the diamond bur does retain some heat which can become quite uncomfortable for the patient.
Therefore, we would advise in that situation to use a diamond bur in combination with a coarser bur, such as a carbide or tungsten bur. This will help to increase your clinical efficiency.
The fine abrasive property of the diamond bur causes a micro dust to be produced during use. As the dust is fine and very light, it is effectively extracted by using a drill with an inbuilt vacuum or extractor. Another option may be water spray drills. These use a fine mist of water to trap the fine particles before they become airborne. It’s always a good idea to use a dust mask in combination with the above equipment.
Diamond burs also come in a range of abrasiveness levels – keep this in mind when you’re deciding to buy your burs.
Buying a range of different grades might be the best solution for you, and your clinical setting, as long as you know the pros and cons of each bur in each situation.
Note. Some bur manufacturers may even colour code (via a coloured ring at the base of the bur head) to differentiate different grades, making the grade distinction even easier.
Carbide Podiatry Burs
Carbide burs differ from diamond burs as instead of filing the nail they have teeth which cut away the nail – that’s where they get their nickname “Carbide Cutters”. Due to the cutting away of the nail, rather than filing, this creates heavier dust particles which reduces the amount of fine dust particles in the air when practicing.
Although they do look intimidating with their ‘teeth’, a gentle approach with these burs can increase efficiency when used on a thick nail. The wide teeth also mean that debris does not get stuck inside and is easily removed – no more nail polish to ruin the bur!
As with all increasingly abrasive grades of burs, a diamond bur or gentle filing with a hand file may be required to finish and smooth the debrided surface, depending on the skill of the Podiatrist.
A finer grade of Carbide bur offers a nice introduction into the use of this style of bur. They should allow you to experience the increased debridement capabilities, and refine your technique in preparation for trying the more assertive grades of Carbide Burs.
Tungsten Podiatry Burs
Tungsten burs provide an enhanced debriding option relative to the standard Diamond Bur used by most Podiatrists. They provide an easy step toward a more clinically efficient bur, with an easy learning curve for the experienced Podiatrist.
For Podiatrists who prefer a more abrasive grade of bur, the Tungsten Bur is the one most commonly used. They’re often the first choice as a Podiatrist moves away from the Diamond Bur they trained with for a number of reasons;
- Efficiency With Ease – As mentioned above, the learning curve when transitioning to this style of bur is relatively simple. The chances of ‘bouncing’ or ‘cutting in’ are relatively low, yet a noticeable increase in burring efficiency can be appreciated.
- Extremely Durable – Due to the extremely tough nature of the Tungsten used in the head of this style of bur, Podiatrists can expect a long lifetime. The ‘edge’ of cutting surface is maintained for an extended period of time due to this hardness.
- Cost Effective – Following on from above, the strong, resilient nature of Tungsten is able to withstand the toughest clinical conditions, reducing the frequency that burs are required to be replaced. Although this style is slightly more expensive then the common Diamond bur, the lifetime and increased clinical efficiency will more then pay for itself over the lifetime of the bur.
Quick tip: A low rotor speed allows the Tungsten Bur to still be effective, while minimising the rate the bur accumulates heat during use.
Overall, Tungsten podiatry Burs are exceptional at removing large amounts of excess nail and skin. Finishing with a smoother bur or foot dresser may occasionally be required when using this bur, however, an experienced Podiatrist is able to finesse a desirable finish without the need for additional burring.
Ceramic Podiatry Burs
Ceramic burs are the most recent development in the Podiatry bur market. Think of them as a Tungsten Podiatry bur with a few very distinct advantages that makes them the most popular style of Podiatry bur among Podiatrists;
- Heat resistant – They’re less prone to heating up due to their Ceramic composition. The Ceramic material has a lower ability to retain heat generated during burring which allows Podiatrists to bur for longer before excess heat generation becomes an issue.
- Clog resistant – The surface of the Ceramic head is resistant to foreign materials adhering to it, making it less likely to be clogged. This minimises interruptions whilst treating and makes cleaning a breeze!
- Easy transition – They offer a nice balance between cutting and finishing, making the transition from Diamond burs (or any other style) an easy one.
- Long lifetime – The type of ceramic used in the head of Ceramic burs has been hardened to withstand the toughest clinical conditions. They won’t break like your favorite coffee cup if you happen to drop them (obviously this isn’t how you should treat your burs though!)
Ceramic Burs aren’t the most popular bur on the market by chance. The above attributes are extremely valuable to the clinical performance of Podiatrists, and allow greater clinical efficiency which directly impacts the bottom line of your clinic.
Podiatry Bur Shape
Once you’re comfortable with selecting the bur composition which suits your needs the best, you can move on to thinking about the shape of the bur. While largely subjective, there are a few points which are important to think about before you make your decision.
- Think about what you like about the burs you’re currently using. Do you like a taper? Perhaps a broad surface with a small edge somewhere is for you? If you try and describe what you like in a bur, you might find that your description covers a few different shapes. For example; “a tapered bur with a nice point” may cover anywhere from a pencil-like bur, a pin shaped bur or even a standard flame bur. Try this yourself and think about each of the options you come up with.
- Talk to your peers. It seems that every Podiatrist has a different opinion on which bur is the best bur. Have a debate with them – it might just allude something to you that you hadn’t thought of before.
Podiatry Bur Care
Although single use Podiatry burs are available, many Podiatrists opt for reusable burs. This begs the question: How do I sterilize burs?
The answer is very similar to caring for your other instruments. If you need to brush up on those concepts, click here.
Sterilising burs is a simple process, but it is extremely important as the many grooves are potential harbouring sites of cross contamination material.
The process should be started within the two hours following their use. Occasionally nail polish may ‘clog’ the edges of the bur, vastly reducing their effectiveness, not to mention their sterility . Acetone can be used to remove the nail polish, but be sure to double check with the bur manufacturer that this is an acceptable practice.
Following this, a brush softer then the bur should be used to physically remove matter stuck in the bur grooves. A soft nylon brush is an economic and efficient solution here and (although not absolutely necessary) a disinfectant solution should be used to assist. The burs should be promptly rinsed and thoroughly dried before they are individually packaged for sterilisation.
A few more Podiatry bur care points:
- Using an ultrasonic cleaner may detach the head of the bur from the shaft. Consult with your manufacturer prior to using one in your sterilisation process.
- Avoid lumping your burs together at any stage. The contact of the abrasive heads on one another rapidly degrades the abrasiveness of the burs.
- As the smallest instrument a Podiatrist will generally use, be careful not to lose them down the sink!
Some words of caution
While burs are an excellent way to enhance your efficiency and capability within your clinic, they must be used with caution. The dangers are always present when utilising a bur and it’s important to look after yourself when you’re helping others get back on their feet.
You should go the extra mile to avoid inhaling dust produced or allowing it to enter your body in any way. Always use personal protective equipment such as a mask, safety glasses and gown, and ensure that the drill you’re using is equipped with an extraction fan.
Good equipment maintenance should be a fundamental concept in any Podiatry clinic and drill maintenance in not an exception. Ensure that you extraction bag is replaced frequently and drill is fully cleaned regularly to avoid any clogging issues and minimise contamination.
Every bur has different strengths and weaknesses and it’s important to know these before making your decision to purchase a bur. Combining this knowledge with your personal preference and commonly encountered diagnosis in a clinical setting are also important points of consideration.
Burs are a powerful tool to the Podiatrist, but use them wisely!