Podiatry Bur Basics
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 capabilities.
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 gives you the ability to make the right bur choice for you as a Podiatrist.
Types of Podiatry burs
Diamond Podiatry burs
The fine abrasive property of the diamond burs causes a fine 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 distilled 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. We’ll cover this in more detail a bit later.
A light diamond bur excels when tasked with finishing the nail – leaving a desirable, smooth surface. They can be used as a standalone bur, or used in combination with a coarser bur such as a carbide or tungsten bur.
Diamond burs also come in a range of abrasiveness levels – keep this in mind when you’re deciding to buy your burs. An important note to add here is that it isn’t hard to tell which bur is a more abrasive one whilst it is still in the sterilisation bag. This means that if you have a variety of burs, you can select a bur of a required coarseness without opening the sterile packaging first. 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 are generally more aggressive than diamond burs and care should be taken when using them. A moderate to high rotor speed combined with a gentle approach to the nail will assist in minimising ‘bounce’ or ‘cutting in’ when using this bur. As with all increasingly abrasive grades of burs, diamond burs or gentle filing with a hand file may be required to finish and smooth the debrided surface.
Ceramic Podiatry Burs
Ceramic burs are very similar to the carbide burs with a few distinct advantages. They’re less prone to heating up due to their composition, and can offer a nice balance between cutting and finishing. They’re a relatively new composition of bur on the market and can be a welcomed change for the experienced Podiatrist.
Click on the Ceramic bur picture to see more details.
Tungsten Podiatry Burs
Tungsten burs provide a precision cutting option. They’re generally the most abrasive grade of bur – transitioning towards a ‘cutting’ tool. They’re exceptional at removal of large amounts of thick nail and skin. They can be effective at low rotor speed which also prevents the bur from heating up as quickly as some of its counterparts. Finishing with a smoother bur or foot dresser may occasionally be required when using this bur.
Podiatry Bur Selection – 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 similiar 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. 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 clean your extraction bag at least weekly and try to give it a full clean 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!
If you’re ready to try out some new burs, here is the LuxeMED Podiatry Bur range