Fast Handpiece - Air Driven vs Electric Motor

October 2009
Dr Gerhard Steenkamp

The dental work in your practice is expanding and you decide to upgrade to a system that will allow you to section teeth as well.


a What are 2 critical factors to keep in mind when sectioning teeth?
b What kind of electronic or air driven devices are available for this purpose?
c What are the advantages or disadvantages of each?


a Speed of the device (ideally 200 000 revolutions per minute [rpm] or more)
 Water cooling to keep the bur cool and clean

 Handpieces Oct 2009-01  

 b Electric motors (on its own or in combination with a scaler), Dremel® tool or an  air driven unit with a high-speed handpiece (turbine).

Electric motors:  These motors usually has a speed of 20 000 rpm.  There are only a few with speeds of up to 30 000 rpm.  These machines have low speed but high torque, which makes them ideal for work that requires a greater workload and less speed (like polishing).  Electric motors do not have a water source and therefore the operator needs an assistant to spray water onto the bur or an external clamp needs to be attached for water to drip onto the bur.  Water and electricity also doesn’t mix so well and if the water sprayed onto the bur is not well regulated it may end up in the electric motor usually with bad results.

In the dental field there are speed increasing handpieces available that will boost the rpm’s to about 100 000, but these handpieces are extremely expensive and therefore not cost effective

Dremel® tools: As seen with electric motors, these devices have a slow speed but they are often used by veterinarians to section teeth.  The draw back here again is the low speed and no internal water-cooling. No speed increasing handpieces are available for the Dremel® tools.

Air driven dental unit with a high-speed handpiece (turbine):  These are the optimal instruments to section teeth with.  They are low on torque but runs at speeds between 200 000 and 350 000 rpm, which makes them ideal for sectioning teeth.  They will usually have an internal water channel that delivers a constant, but adjustable, jet of water onto the bur.  They can even come with a fibre-optic light in the head in order to accurately illuminate the area where you are working, this does cost quite a bit more but does sometimes help.


 Handpieces Oct 2009-02  


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