The hand piece is the most important tool in a dentist’s everyday practice. Since it’s such a precise and sophisticated device, the quality of the hand piece has an impact on the quality of care a practitioner delivers to his or her patients. Consider the following factors in choosing a top quality dental hand piece to use.
History of the Dental Hand Piece
Before the 1950s, the typical hand piece was driven by an electric belt with a top rotational speed of 50,000 rotations per minute (rpm). The slow speed of these tools made dental work extremely uncomfortable to patients, who felt high pressure and vibrations throughout the procedure. These hand pieces were also heavy and restrictive to dentists.
Modern hand pieces harness new technology to provide faster cutting speeds, less vibration, and a smoother cut. They incorporate ergonomic design, built-in lights for better visibility, and water sprays to cool the surface of a tooth. These innovations are what paved the way for the modern dental practices we see today, which are far more efficient and comfortable for patients and practitioners alike.
Electric vs. Air-Driven Hand Pieces
Today’s hand pieces are either air-driven or powered by electricity. The main difference between the two is the consistency of speed. Electric hand pieces deliver a consistent free-running and active speed. They are generally limited to a default speed of about 40,000 rpm, but users can add a high-speed attachment for additional speed. This, combined with the consistency in speed, can cut the time required to prepare teeth for treatment.
Air-driven hand pieces are smaller and lighter than electric devices, but they can deliver much higher speeds by default. They are also smaller and lighter than electric hand pieces, so dentists with smaller hands tend to prefer them to electric devices.
Factors in Choosing a Top Quality Dental Hand Piece
- Head size: most manufacturers offer large and small head hand pieces. A smaller head makes it easier for the dentist to better see and access the back of the mouth, while larger heads have a higher power output for speedier work.
- Sound level: one of the biggest complaints patients have about the dental appointment experience is hearing the loud whirring of the hand piece. Newer models come with lower noise levels of 58 to 71 decibels, which is comparable to a dishwasher or the background conversation in a restaurant.
- Ergonomic design: since dentists spend many hours a day holding a hand piece, it’s important to find one with the best fit and feel for their hand. Different models vary in size, balance, and weight. Choosing an ergonomic design will help prevent long-term health issues, like carpel tunnel syndrome.
Types of Hand Pieces
- High-speed or turbine hand pieces operate at speeds of 100,000 to 800,000 rpm. Since the piece generates a lot of heat, all high-speed devices come with a built-in water spray. Some have fiber optic light for better visibility. Sable Industries offers high-speed handpieces both with and without fiber optics.
- Low-speed hand pieces are used to polish and finish dental procedures after treatment with a higher speed hand piece. They operate between 6,000 and 10,000 rpm.
- Contra-angle hand pieces have one or more bends in the shaft that isn’t parallel with the grip. They allow practitioners to reach less-accessible areas of the mouth.