Types of Dental Handpieces and Its Role in Dental Practice

The handpiece is one of the most essential parts of dental practice. From small adjustments to everyday tasks, it can be used as an instrument for efficiency and accuracy. As technology advances, so does this indispensable part: from crude beginnings into modern precision tools that are capable of completing even intricate procedures with relative ease.

One major component on any dental toolkit has been the humble but useful handpiece—from rudimentary devices which required brute force just ten years ago up until now where they have become sophisticated instruments able to quickly execute delicate surgeries without adjusting much more than a few settings or two clicks at worst (or not).

The dental handpiece is one of a dentist’s most useful tools. Without it, dentists would struggle to perform the most common procedures from shaping teeth and removing decay to that dreaded root canal! It might be common knowledge in your office that this trusty sidekick needs regular maintenance, but did you know how long this drill has been around? The first drills were invented back in Ancient Greece–around 250 B.C.–and they haven’t changed much since then.

Today, dental handpieces are used by dentists, hygienists, specialists, and lab technicians. Whether performing the most routine prophy appointment or complicated endodontic, surgical, ortho, and restorative treatments it is highly likely a handpiece will be required. While some handpieces are designed for a variety of uses – such as basic cleaning procedures in which you don’t need to get too close to your patients’ teeth- many specialized high-speed metal dental drills that can work on different surfaces exist. This means that these powerful tools must be kept safe from cross-contamination by using appropriate plastic shields (to keep fluids out) and storage cases with drawers so each piece has its own space.

Dental handpieces and related equipment can be divided into a number of categories, and even within those categories, there are multiple ways components can be organized. The basic breakdowns for individual handpiece components include complete systems with their own parts or as part-only items that need to have an existing system associated in order to work on the patient’s teeth. These are the following:

High-Speed (Air-Turbine) Handpiece

The high-speed handpiece is a precision device for the removal of tooth tissue efficiently and quickly with no pressure, heat, or vibration. It cuts the teeth easily but it has to be used carefully.

Dental high-speed handpieces can vary by design shape and construction material but will all run at 250,000 to 400,000 RPMs. Features such as attachment type, head size, light source (fiber optic lights), handpiece weight, and motor noise further distinguish high-speed variations of dental tools. 

Low-Speed (Air-Turbine) Handpiece

A Low (Slow) Speed Handpiece is a handheld motor, usually air-driven or electric that spins the dental bur and prophy cup at 50,000 RPM. They are used for removing caries as well as refining cavity preparations in endodontic procedures such as root canal treatments. The low-speed handpiece’s features vary between manufacturers such as dental bur attachment, air/water nozzles, construction material, and angle design. Handpiece

Electric Handpieces

Electric dental handpiece systems are powerful contra-angle tools that save time and increase accuracy. The motorized torque of electric motors reduces the need for air-driven precision and can be of great help to dentists when working in tight spaces or difficult angles. Electric handpieces also come in a variety of different styles to provide flexibility while saving money on additional equipment purchases.

Surgical Handpieces

In order to keep your oral surgeries safe, you need to use a surgical air-driven handpiece. These surgical handpieces are designed with grated vents which prevent air from spraying into your oral cavity while you’re in surgery- this is crucial as it could cause complications quickly.

Endodontic Handpieces

Endodontic handpieces are specialized dental instruments designed to clean and shape canals during root canal treatments. These tools have the ability to drive endodontic files with precision, preventing file breakage or binding in most cases. Whether reciprocating or rotating, these handpieces work with your preferred file system and other operatory equipment for precision.

Implant Handpieces

The implant handpieces have been specially designed for oral and maxillofacial surgery. The high-quality stainless steel with a special coating makes them particularly robust.

When you’re choosing any dental handpiece, the first consideration should be what tasks it will need to perform. High-speed options are often used for preparing teeth while low-speed ones are more appropriate when finishing and polishing restorations. Many electric handsets have a high/low-speed setting which is perfect if your needs vary – though most of these systems offer both speeds too. Once you know how this device will function in your specialized dental practice, it’s important to get a sense of how well its design feels in hand: weight balance, head size durability all factor into whether or not that particular piece might work best with your business requirements.

Finally, be sure to research what type of maintenance must be performed and remember that dental handpieces are an investment so it’s wise to do your homework and pick the best fit for you.

Handpieces are an essential part of every dental practice. Hayes Handpiece Repair is an expert in the repair and maintenance of dental handpieces with over 30 years of experience. We have repair and maintenance service available for the following brands:

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Hayes Handpiece also provides in-house and online staff training on handpiece practical care and federal regulatory compliance. To learn more about our training topics, you may visit the links below:

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