Most dentists both new and old have no idea there are different handpieces on the market that are used for different facets of dentistry. When you ask a dentist why they use a specific brand or model of handpiece you will receive answers like, “this is what I have always used,” “this one feels the best in my hands,” or “this one was the best price when I was purchasing my equipment.” While these comments are true, they are not maximizing their efficiency with each patient losing both time and money. Your job as a repair technician is to educate the doctor on what handpieces are available and the advantages each will bring to his practice.
Air Driven Highspeeds
All air driven highspeeds have a tradeoff between head size and torque. Handpieces typically come in large, standard, and small head sizes each of which provide a different speed and torque output. Air runs through the handpiece to the head hitting the impeller allowing the turbine assembly to spin. The larger the head size, the more air the impeller is catching producing greater cutting output.
Large Head: Provides the greatest amount of torque while running at a slower speed (320,000-380,000). The slower speeds allow for the smoothest, quietest operation. These handpieces are ideal for cutting through harder materials such as metal, amalgam, and composite. The only downside of using a large head handpiece for all procedures is its lack of ability to reach small places in the mouth.
Standard Head: This handpiece has the most versatile combination of head size and torque. The moderate head size allows the dentist more accessibility within the mouth while sacrificing small amounts of torque. These typically run between 380,000-420,000rpm causing a bit more noise and chatter during usage. The increased speed decreases overall life of the turbine and bearings but is needed to compensate for decrease of torque from its large head counterpart.
Small Head: Also known as a mini head or pedo head should be used for accessibility only. The small head produces the smallest amount of torque output and runs the fastest of all handpiece types (between 450,000-500,000). Again, the speed increase helps compensate for the loss in torque and at these speeds has the highest chance of the turbine burning out or failing quickly.
Unless a dentist is a specialist and does not run into scenarios where they need high torque or greater accessibility, they should be using multiple handpieces in tandem with each other. Choosing the correct handpiece for the correct procedure will help extend the life of the handpiece and allow greater efficiency completing each task.
Surgical handpieces are another form of air driven handpiece used for periodontal, open tissue, osseous serveries. They all have a 45 degree slanted head for access to the rear molars and MUST have rear exhaust, no air escapes from the front of the handpiece. If a normal air-driven highspeed is used during a surgery with an open flap, the patient is at risk of suffering an embolism from the air exhausting from the front. Surgical handpieces will reduce or eliminate the risks from these types of procedures. If you find a dentist is not using a surgical handpiece for such surgeries, you may want to educate him on its importance to the patient and to prevent malpractice.
Electric handpieces are the newest form of handpiece on the market and function on a different set of principles from the original air-driven handpieces. Electric handpieces function on a solid, interconnecting gearing system that is driven by an electric motor or electric box. This gearing system allows for consistent torque regardless of speed, cutting material, or head size. The running speed is from 100-200,000rpm and tend to run quieter and smoother than air driven handpieces. Adopting this new technology can allow dentists to finish procedures quicker with more comfort to both patient and dentist. It is common for the dentists we work with to use electric and air driven handpieces together during a procedure, electrics for the “heavy lifting” and air-driven for the finite work. The only known downside of electric handpiece use is the initial and maintenance costs of ownership.
Knowing the basic information on handpiece available will allow you to further educate your doctors in-office. This conversation can lead to increased practice efficiency, increased trust, and increased sales and revenue for your company.