How Evolving Trends in Dentistry and Technology Produced an Industry of Repair
For at least as long as humans have been building settlements, communities, and cities, there has been dentistry in one form or another. And along with dentistry comes the dental drill, or handpiece. And while high-speed handpiece repair wasn’t the lucrative industry 9,000 years ago that it is today, it’s still true that as long as there have been tools, there has been a need to fix or replace them. So how did we come from simply replacing a dulled stone tip with a sharper one to a highly precise mechanical process?
The First Dental Tools
The earliest evidence of a dental handpiece is over 9,000 years old, and were operated either by hand or bowstring. This was discovered in Pakistan in 2006, where the remains of nine adults with 11 drilled molars between them were excavated. The first mechanical drills, however, came about in 1778, with a model that consisted of a hand crank attached to a gear that controlled the drill. It wasn’t until the latter half of the 19th century that a fast-paced revolution in dental technology brought us closer to modern handpieces.
A Dental Revolution
The first clockwork dental handpiece was produced in 1864 by George Fellows Harrington, and was the fastest drill to date. It could work for a two minutes between each winding, and repair was a simple matter of fixing the clockwork—easier done in the 19th century compared to now, as clock making and repair was still a much more common trade than it is today. By 1868, however, the clockwork handpiece was already usurped by a pneumatic model that employed a foot-powered bellows to power it. In 1871, high-speed handpiece repair was a simple matter of replacing a belt and oiling up the mechanics of James B. Morrison’s belt-driven drill. In 1875, electricity found its way into dentistry. By 1914, electric handpieces became commonplace, and in 1949, the modern air-powered drill was born.
A New Industry
With modern technological advances in the dental handpiece, the thing itself has become a highly-specialized piece of equipment, requiring the hands of specially-trained people to fix it when it breaks. High-speed handpiece repair is not a general science that can be applied by anyone with a passing knowledge of mechanics, but an applied skill that requires practitioners to be well-versed in the different makes and models, what sets them apart, and what makes them work. And this is why, when your handpiece is in dire need of repair, you should always put your trust in professional.