The mini handpiece evolution

March 21, 2012

Small-headed handpieces are nothing new. I’m guessing most of us have owned one at some point in our careers. We’ve been enamored by their compact size but underwhelmed by their ability to cut tooth structure.

Small-headed handpieces are nothing new. I’m guessing most of us have owned one at some point in our careers. We’ve been enamored by their compact size but underwhelmed by their ability to cut tooth structure. We also don’t care for the high-pitched screeching often associated with earlier generation models. Ultimately, they have found their way to the rear of our “back-up” handpiece drawer, and we only look for them when we’re called upon to restore the disto-buccal of No. 18 on a patient who has ultra-limited opening. We then go searching for the short shanked burs because our mini handpiece doesn’t work with normal length cutting instruments. They’re on the shelf somewhere. This has to sound familiar! (Unless of course you are a pediatric dentist who uses micro handpieces on a daily basis.)

A new option 

A few months back the good people at J. Morita asked if I would like to try out their soon-to-be-introduced TwinPower Ultra series handpieces. I was told I would be quite surprised by the ability of such a small handpiece to cut like a full-sized counterpart. I thought to myself, “Sure…what have I got to lose? Try it for a day and then give it back. You’ve got enough handpieces.” It occurred to me afterward that J. Morita has come out with some great gizmos over the years, so there might be something to this new handpiece (Recall the Root ZX, great and getting even better).

What they can do 

The TwinPower Ultras arrived as promised in two flavors. The UltraM (the smaller of the two) intended for use with short shank burs and normal burs up to 20 mm in length, and the UltraE, slightly larger, to be used with standard burs. I grabbed the UltraM and offered the UltraE to my partner, who was more than happy to participate in the evaluation. 

 

For those of you who haven’t owned a micro (sometimes called mini) handpiece it is one of those items that, as alluded to above, can save your day when working in a tight spot. Not only can it afford you straight line access to the occlusal surfaces of No. 18 or No. 15 in a “hostile” environment, it can dramatically increase the visibility of the target zone. This can be incredibly helpful, for example, when creating endodontic access portals, allowing you to actually see what you’re doing. Pediatric dentists deal with limited access every day. In this instance, I’m quite sure that I am preaching to the choir. Common sense tells us that the better we see what we are doing, the better and the faster we do it. It’s not rocket science. 

 

So why don’t we use micro handpieces all of the time? As mentioned above, these micro handpieces sacrifice cutting ability and bur compatibility too much to make them “prime time players.” It would appear that J. Morita is attempting to change that line of thinking. Ironically, I began using the TwinPower UltraM right after I installed a highly touted air-driven handpiece from another well-known manufacturer. The manufacturer claimed this air-driven handpiece could cut like a muscle bound electric and not break a sweat (actually, it could, but that’s another story). The point here: I was able to use, side by side, a handpiece designated as a heavy hitter next to the UltraM, ready to attain expanded duty. 

My experience

As we began using the J. Morita handpiece, the first thing my assistant and I noticed is how difficult it was to tell if the handpiece was running when I engaged the rheostat. Why? The UltraM kind of “whispers” as it runs. The annoying handpiece whine (6000-7000 Hz range) has been all but eliminated. We also noticed the concentricity of the bur spinning in place. It sounds crazy to say but the revolutions are so smooth and chatter free that the bur looks like it isn’t moving. We also liked the fact that when I remove my foot from the rheostat, the bur immediately stops spinning with not so much as a single drop of water dripping from the water jets. 

 

OK, that’s all great but how does it cut? Did it hold me back with respect to speed of operation? After working with the handpiece for a month, I’ve become accustomed to using the heavy hitter handpiece and the UltraM interchangeably. When it comes to “everyday” tooth preparation, the differences in cutting ability between the two handpieces are non-discernable. In fact, when I need “peace and quiet,” I’ll grab the UltraM rather than the noisy big brother. The one instance I might not use the UltraM would be to cut off an old crown. Why tempt fate?

The bottom line

In summary, the UltraM has changed my opinion of mini handpieces. By the way, my partner, using the UltraE, shared my sentiments. It would appear that owing to J. Morita’s ingenuity, the micro handpiece, as a class of dental handpiece, is ready for prime time. 

 

Dr. Martin Goldstein, a Fellow of the International Academy of Dento-Facial Esthetics as well as the Academy of General Dentistry (FAGD), practices general dentistry in Wolcott, Conn. Recognized as a Dentistry Today Top 100 CE Leader for the last seven years and for his expertise in the field of dental digital photography, he lectures and writes extensively concerning cosmetics and the integration of digital photography into the general practice.