New Handpieces?

New Handpieces?

1st May 2020

It is no secret that slowspeed and highspeed dental handpieces are considered an essential tool in your practice.  Over the years, there have been some amazing advances in handpiece technology.  The newest handpieces are more powerful, produce less noise, and create less vibration.  These advances benefit both the dentist and patient.

When it comes to purchasing your next handpiece, here are 11 features we believe you need to consider.

Head size
It is important to consider both the height and the diameter of the handpiece head.  The general consensus is that the smaller the head, the greater the visibility combined with improved ease of access.  The compromise with a smaller head is that handpiece torque is reduced and tooth preparation time is increased.

Speed & Torque
Torque and Speed are constant companions. Torque is the power that ideally you want to be consistent in order to maintain the speed of the bur when you are cutting teeth and dental materials.  The torque that a handpiece delivers can dramatically reduce treatment time and improve treatment comfort for the clinician and the patient alike.

Noise level
Choosing a handpiece that operates at the lowest decibel level has two important benefits - it can minimize a patient’s fear and anxiety during any procedure while also protecting and preserving the hearing of the clinician.  A typical high-speed, air-turbine handpiece has a noise output of between 70 and 80 decibels.

When considering the weight of a handpiece, it is important to consider the weight of the handpiece plus the coupling or motor and the tubing as well as the balance of the weight in the hand.  The weight and balance of the handpiece in the hand has a significant impact on minimizing repetitive stress injuries within the muscles and nerves, with hands and forearms particularly vulnerable.  A handpiece that best fits a petite woman may not be optimal for a man who can hold a basketball in one hand.

Traditionally, slowspeed handpieces have weighed at least twice as much as highspeed handpieces.  Today, manufacturers have reduced the weight of slowspeed handpieces so that clinicians can work with slowspeeds just like they would if they were using a highspeed handpiece.

Be sure that the handpiece you are considering has a satisfactory number of air and water spray ports to provide for rapid and even cooling of the operative field, removal of debris, and to ensure a clean and hygienic treatment area.

Many dental handpieces today are available with excellent LED optics that deliver daylight-quality light directly to the treatment site, enabling more precise work for restoration and prosthetic procedure.  Look for a light source that is easy to switch on and off.

Bearing quality
It’s important to know what type of bearing the handpiece has in the turbine, as ceramic bearings are more resistant to wear than stainless-steel bearings.  A worn or damaged bearing causes bur ‘chatter’ or ‘wobble’ as a result of the bur not cutting concentrically.  This is uncomfortable for the patient and the clinician alike.  Reducing bur chatter results in a truer, more definite cutting instrument, which allows you to routinely produce more precise margins, faster and with much less effort.  In addition, the bur is in contact with the tooth for a shorter time, which means that less heat is produced, which leads to less sensitivity and improved bur lifespan.  The result is a tooth preparation that has smoother walls and more precise margins - in less time and with less stress for the dentist and patient.  Your patients will love spending less time in the chair, and you will benefit by fitting more patient treatments into your day.

When considering an air-driven handpiece, it’s important to know if it is compatible with your existing coupling or hose system. The benefits of a quick disconnect saves valuable chairside and assistant time by enabling efficient replacements between patients.  This will make your chair time more efficient.  Chances are that the current handpiece you are using has similar features to what you are looking for in your next purchase.

Warranties are an important insurance policy against any unexpected events or mishaps that happen with your handpiece.  Make sure you consider the length of the warranty included.  Usually, the warranty period is 1 year for a handpiece, but there are longer warranties available.  Ask about the fine print and what is covered under the warranty. Does it include parts and labor?  Is free shipping included?

Effective regular lubrication significantly increases your handpiece’s service life. Not all lubrication procedures are equally simple.  You should be able to select a handpiece with a straightforward lubrication process which allows you to follow clear instructions regularly and easily.

The average handpiece cycles through the sterilizer 1,000 times per year.  Never exceed the maximum recommended autoclave temperature that the handpiece components are designed to tolerate.  If autoclave guidelines are followed correctly, a quality-manufactured handpiece will continue to function without noticeable decrease of power or efficiency through repeated sterilizations.

Make sure you take every opportunity to test how a dental handpiece feels in your hand.  Don’t forget to test the grip while wearing the gloves that you might use during procedures.

How much can you afford to spend?  How much are you willing to spend?  Handpieces, like automobiles, get more costly as the performance and features increase.

In addition to the cost of a handpiece know in advance if you will have to add quick-connect couplings to every delivery system and if your current illumination system is compatible with the new handpieces.

Don’t rely solely on printed literature, websites or videos before making your purchase decision. It’s vitally important to get a feel for the handpiece first.  Dental conventions are a great place to try multiple handpieces from different companies all in one location.  Also, you can call the manufacturer and set up an appointment to evaluate a handpiece in your office, where it will ultimately be used.  And last but not least, another great resource is to ask a colleague.