Tips from the Technology Evangelist: The Advantages of Electric Dental Handpieces

Chief clinical editor and technology editor John Flucke, DDS explains the advantages electric handpieces have over air turbine handpieces. [3 Minutes]


If you're only using air driven right now, here's a little something to be aware of. Air driven handpieces don't have much torque, those turbines spin very fast, and they're powered by a very thin stream of air that comes to that handpiece and we have 35 or 40 psi.

Air doesn't have a lot of density. And when you step on your rheostat, and that handpiece spins up with that air turbine, it spins up to around 400,000 rpms. But when you actually engage bur to tooth, you'll notice that the handpiece spins down, it slows down when you engage. And the reason for that is a lack of torque. They have to spin at that really high speed, it sort of gives them a running start, if you will, so that when you put burr to tooth, you can actually accomplish something.

An electric handpiece is totally different. An electric hand piece is driven by an electric motor. And that electric motor powers gears that run throughout the handpiece up into the head, and those gears, they don't, you know, they don't slow down when you engage tooth structure, those gears keep rotating at the same rpm. So with an electric, you dial it in at high speed 200,000 RPMs and when you actually put bur to tooth, you stay at 200,000 RPM. Stalling electric handpieces just darn near impossible.

The other thing that gives you the vibration free aspect of things is the fact that you can actually decrease the speed if you want to. You can even go through if you want to and decrease the torque on the handpiece, although I don't find too many reasons to do that in my practice. But sometimes when finishing margins, it is really helpful to spin things down to 100,000 or 50,000 RPM, especially if you're dealing with a case in the aesthetic zone. It just allows you to be so much more precise. The handpiece continues to turn and allows you to get those margins exactly the way you want them with no chance for error because everything is consistent all the time.