The Dental Handpiece has Shaped Dentistry as we Know it!
The dental handpiece or drill, is one of a dentist’s most useful tools. Without it, a dentists would struggle to perform the most common dental procedures from shaping teeth and removing decay to the notorious root canal. It’s common knowledge that as a dentist’s trusty sidekick, a handpiece needs to be kept in good condition, and should be sent for dental handpiece repair when needed, but what you may not know is that the dental drill has been around for almost as long as dentistry itself.
The first evidence of dental handpieces in history – 7000BC
Evidence of the first dental drill used in history came from an archaeological discovery of an Indus Valley Civilization. The remains showed the undeniable use of a form of dental drill used effectively more than 9,000 years ago. Researchers aren’t sure of the exact mechanism that was used at that time, but in slightly more recent ancient times, a bow drill was used for dental procedures. This type of drill is still in use in some parts of the world today, though we hope not for dentistry, but for woodworking and to start fires.
Mechanical dental drills – late 18th century
Similar in form and function to other hand drills, the mechanical drill came into use in the late 1770’s, the most documented of which was turned with a hand crank. It was incredibly slow compared to the modern drill, operating at 15 rpm. One can imagine it would have felt and sounded very different compared to the dental handpieces of today. One can also imagine that dental handpiece repair involved very different tools than today.
Finally, the first electrical dental handpiece – 1875
A more sophisticated handpiece, was designed by British dentist, George Fellows Harrington in 1864. The device used a clockwork mechanism and was incredibly noisy. He named it Erado. Four years later, in 1868, an American dentist named George F. Greene invented a pedal-powered drill. James B. Morrison invented the first pedal-powered burr drill in 1871, and the aforementioned Dr. Green finally got around to inventing the first electrical drill in 1875, turning the practice of dentistry on its head. By 1914 electrical handpieces were in common use, reaching speeds of up to 3,000 rpm.
The modern dental handpiece
The modern dental handpiece as we’d recognize it today, using air rotors, was designed by John Patrick Walsh in New Zealand in 1949. The design has been tinkered, modernized and improved in the intervening years. Today’s dental drills are commonly run at a “high speed” of 400,000 rpms. Today’s tools are designed for precision, power, and efficiency, making dental procedures more pleasant and effective for dentists and patients alike.
Of course, no dental drill is used safely or effectively when it is in need of dental handpiece repair. Proper care and maintenance of a dental drill can prolong its safe usage. If in doubt, dental handpiece repair services can restore a dentist’s favourite tool to its ideal condition, leaving happy dentists and happy patients.