Everyone who’s ever set foot in a dentist’s office has seen a handpiece. Known more colloquially as a “drill,” it’s a dentist’s most valuable and versatile tool. They can be used at high and low speeds to clean and polish teeth, to remove plaque, to shape teeth or prepare them for fillings or crowns. Many dentists also use them to remove old fillings or crowns prior to replacing them with new ones. These high-tech instruments, always at a dentist’s side, have been in use in one form or another for over 9,000 years – the earliest ones were made of stone! The handpiece has certainly come a long way since then, and comes in many varieties to meet all of a dentist’s needs.
Handpieces come in two speed varieties: low-speed and high-speed. The low-speed drill can rotate at up to 30,000 revolutions per minute (RPM). This makes it well-suited to the heavy work: boring into cavities to prepare them for fillings, removal of caries or old crowns and fillings in need of replacement. By contrast, high-speed models work at up to 400,000 RPM depending on the model. At higher speeds, they are perfect for more precision work, like polishing teeth or shaping new crowns and fillings. Because they run so hot, high-speed handpieces include a water jet to both cool them down and also help clean debris out of the treatment area.
Air vs. Electric
There are different methods of powering the handpiece, and they relate strongly to the dental handpiece repair, maintenance, and functionality. Air-powered units use a turbine to push compressed air into the unit, propelling the mechanics into motion. Electric units forego the compressed-air method, allowing them to run more quietly, and giving dentists more precision control over elements such as speed and torque.
Cleaning, Care, and Maintenance
To minimize the cost and necessity of dentist handpiece repair, make sure to engage in regular cleaning and maintenance. This includes washing out each unit and then sterilizing it after use. Cleaning methods and best practices vary from unit to unit, so make sure to carefully read and adhere to the manufacturer’s directions as you prepare them for sterilization. For air-driven units, never exceed 40 PSI – doing so can lead to malfunctions down the road as excessive wear and tear sets in. If your unit starts to function poorly, or ceases function all together, then contact your local dentist handpiece repair specialist immediately.
Of course, there is so much more to know about dental handpiece repairs, types, and uses. This is only the beginning when it comes to handpieces! To learn more about these essential dental instruments, visit your local handpiece specialists.