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Exploring the Differences Between Electric and Air-Driven Handpieces


Dentistry is a craft as much as it is a science. While the theoretical knowledge you gained in school and on the job is crucial, the quality of your work also depends on how well you wield your tools. Among these, dental handpieces are key pieces of equipment, and it's vital to choose the right ones for your practice. 


Although it might seem like a straightforward decision, selecting the ideal handpiece involves balancing several factors. It's not as simple as opting for the most advanced model on the market. Considerations like budget, personal preferences, and long-term value also play a significant role. 


An essential question to ask is which type of handpiece suits your practice best – an electric handpiece, an air-driven handpiece, or possibly a combination of both?  


Let’s take a closer look at both types of handpieces, discussing their strengths and weaknesses and comparing them to help you make an informed decision.


What is an Air-Driven Handpiece?


The air produced by a practice’s air compressor system powers air-driven handpieces. This air spins a turbine impeller at approximately 400,000 RPM, generating enough torque for the handpiece to cut through hard objects seamlessly.  


Air-driven handpieces have been an industry standard for dentists for decades. They remain timeless in effectiveness and a preferred tool of many practitioners.


Air-Driven Dental Handpiece Parts and Features


As mentioned, the turbine impeller in an air-driven handpiece spins at about 400,000 RPM. This is an incredibly high speed, where the velocity tops out. 


The air compressor of an air-driven handpiece doesn’t maintain consistency with speed and torque. So there’s also an air-water syringe you can easily connect to a handpiece delivery system for spraying. 


Sable Industries offers high-quality air-driven handpiece replacement parts for all SABLE high speed handpieces as well as premium replacement parts compatible with BIEN AIR, KAVO, MK DENT, NSK, PALISADES, SIEMENS, SIRONA, STAR, VECTOR, AND W&H high speed handpieces. All premium quality Sable turbines carry a 12 month warranty.


Pros and Cons of Air-Driven Handpieces


Air-driven handpieces are a traditional staple in dental offices. But like any technology, these handpieces have distinctive pros and cons. Let’s dive into these advantages and drawbacks, shedding light on the practicality of air-driven handpieces in modern dentistry.


Pros of Air-Driven Handpieces


  • Air systems required for air-driven handpieces already exist in your practice; this helps with the air-water syringe because you can tap into the air system.  
  • Comfortable and lightweight, reducing user fatigue. 
  • Possible to change head angles and sizes easily, enabling users to achieve optimal torque with a larger head or access hard-to-reach areas with a smaller head. 
  • Manufacturing these high-speed handpieces is relatively simple, making them more cost-effective.  
  • More sensitive work process because users can “hear” contact with the tooth. While they have high speeds, the touch is lower versus electric handpieces.  
  • Resistance increases and decreases the speed (as needed) to 50,000 to 300,000 RPM when the piece contacts the tooth.
Cons of Air-Driven Handpieces


  • Generally break down more often than their electric counterparts because their high spin speed is conducive to problems. 
  • Cannot create the same level of torque as electric handpieces; while larger heads can increase torque, this impedes maneuverability and hampers small-area access.

What Is An Electric Handpiece?


No air is required for electric handpieces (although some models have an air switch while running on power). 


Instead, electric handpieces have an electric motor system that employs electrical currents to spin an armature (located in the motor)—the motor for electric handpieces splints at 20,000 RPM. 


There’s a 1:5 attachment atop the motor, bolstering the speed ratio to spin the bur at 100,000 RPM. All electric 1:5 speed increaser replacement parts come with a 12 month warranty. 


Electric Handpiece Parts and Features


While electric handpieces have far less speed than air-driven handpieces, they make up for it with tremendous torque. Moreover, this torque remains consistent–even as the bur meets resistance. 


Also, as we mentioned, these handpieces have an electric motor. They also have programmable settings. 


Sable Industries offers high-quality electric 1:5 speed increaser replacement parts for BIEN AIR, KAVO, MIDWEST, SCICAN, and SIRONA.


Pros and Cons of Electric Handpieces


Electric dental handpieces represent an innovation in dental technology, offering a unique blend of features that cater to modern dental needs. The qualities and capabilities of electric handpieces make them an attractive choice for many dental practitioners, although they, too, come with their unique sets of pros and cons.


Pros of Electric Handpieces


  • Torque is abundant and maintains itself regardless of the speed. 
  • Maintains its RPM regardless of how much pressure you apply to the bur, ensuring there’s no freezing or slowing down of the bur.  
  • Smaller head diameter since electric handpieces lack an impeller; they have a geared spindle instead.  
  • Shorter and take up less space. 
  • Tend to last longer than air-driven handpieces. 
  • Produces a smoother and more precise cut 
  • Patients typically prefer electric handpieces since they don’t produce much vibration and are quieter than air-driven models. 
  • Modern electric motors often have LED lighting to provide a visual advantage.

Cons of Electric Handpieces


  • Electric handpieces have many moving parts, making them more expensive to purchase. 
  • Repairs are required less frequently, but the upfront costs are much higher than air-driven options. 
  • Compared to air-driven models, more parts require repairs after a break in electric handpieces, calling for more labour costs. 
  • Electric handpiece attachments necessitate comprehensive motor systems installed in offices, adding to the required expenses. 
  • While shorter, these electric devices are heavier than air-driven models because all the internal parts are needed to boost the speed at a 1:5 ratio.

Comparing Electric and Air-Driven Handpieces


Here’s a head-to-head comparison between electric handpieces and air-driven handpieces.


1. Performance and Efficiency


Electric handpieces require less speed to function. However, they’re also heavier than air-driven handpieces and have more moving parts, calling for more complex repairs (although they need to be repaired less.) 


Moreover, electric handpieces use smaller heads, providing better viewing angles than air-driven models.  


Air-driven models can be implemented more seamlessly into practice systems, increasing efficiency.  


So, both options have efficiency and performance advantages/disadvantages.


2. Speed and Torque Capabilities


Electric handpieces are highly acclaimed for their torque capabilities. Unlike air-driven handpieces, they can maintain a consistent torque level regardless of the applied pressure, making them ideal for heavy-duty procedures. In addition, they offer steady and robust power throughout the procedure, even when faced with hard substances such as amalgam or enamel.  


This consistent torque enhances precision and control, making the process smoother and more predictable.  


However, electric handpieces usually operate at lower speeds than their air-driven counterparts, ranging from 1,000 to 200,000 RPM. 


On the other hand, air-driven handpieces can reach impressively high speeds, sometimes as high as 300,000 to 450,000 RPM. This speed advantage makes them particularly effective in tasks requiring fast cutting, polishing, or cleaning.  


Air-driven handpieces face limitations when it comes to torque. The torque in air-driven handpieces is less consistent than in electric ones; it can fluctuate depending on the pressure applied, sometimes leading to a stalling effect when in contact with the tooth.


3. Noise Level and Vibration


With their high-speed turbine operation, air-driven handpieces tend to produce a characteristic whining noise that can sometimes cause discomfort or anxiety in sensitive patients.  


Additionally, the rapid rotation of the turbine can cause a noticeable level of vibration. Although typically manageable, this vibration may lead to some degree of hand fatigue over extended periods of use and slightly less precision during delicate procedures. 


On the contrary, electric handpieces operate at a considerably lower noise level, creating a more comfortable and relaxed atmosphere for patients. This feature can be particularly beneficial in a practice where patient comfort and minimizing anxiety are top priorities.  


Additionally, electric handpieces exhibit significantly less vibration compared to their air-driven counterparts. The vibration reduction not only enhances the precision of the dental work but also promotes the comfort of dental professionals during lengthy procedures.


4. Maintenance and Durability


Due to their mechanical simplicity, air-driven handpieces are often easier to maintain on a routine basis. Basic cleaning and lubrication of the turbine are typically the primary requirements. However, it’s worth noting that they might require more frequent servicing due to potential breakdowns, as the turbine’s high-speed operation could lead to increased wear and tear.  


Electric handpieces, on the other hand, are generally more robust and durable due to their sturdy electric motor. As a result, they often have longer service lives and require less frequent replacement compared to air-driven handpieces, potentially reducing long-term maintenance costs. However, they require meticulous maintenance to ensure optimal performance and longevity.  


Electric handpieces usually have more intricate components, making their maintenance process slightly more complex than air-driven handpieces.


5. Cost Considerations


Air-driven handpieces are more cost-friendly upfront. This could make them an attractive option for practices working with a tight budget or those just starting. However, considering their tendency for more frequent breakdowns and potentially shorter lifespan, the long-term costs could add up due to more frequent repairs or replacements. 


Electric handpieces, on the other hand, usually come with a higher upfront cost. The sophisticated electric motor that powers these devices generally makes them more expensive to manufacture and purchase. However, their superior durability and less frequent need for replacement often translate into lower long-term costs.  


Also, considering their consistent torque and reduced noise and vibration, the higher initial investment might be justified by the potential for improved patient comfort and procedural efficiency.


Choosing the Right Handpiece


Electric and air-driven handpieces each have pluses and minuses (primarily pluses). Deciding which is best for your practice requires in-depth contemplation. This process includes grasping your practice’s specific needs (e.g., budgetary and logistics). 


Consider reaching out to other dental professionals for their input. They’ll have a good idea of what would work best for a practice like yours. 


Also, weigh the availability of replacement parts for electric and air-driven handpieces. A handpiece you can’t repair can cost you significantly in the long run.

Generic Administrator at 5:55 AM
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Power Up Your Dental Practice: How Proper Suction Line Maintenance Can Improve Efficiency and Safety


In a dental practice, every detail counts. 


Customer service is key. Technical skills are paramount. Administrative proficiency is pivotal. 


Your practice's leadership team must cover all angles, and you should always be looking for ways to streamline and "power up" your business practices. You leave no stone unturned in finding ways to improve. 


As an essential part of your clinic's operatory, dental suction lines and evacuation systems can contribute greatly to increasing your practice's safety and efficiency. For that reason, here are a few tips on how to properly maintain dental suction lines.


Refresher: What Are Dental Suction Lines?


Your dental evacuation system (or dental suction system) removes blood, saliva, irrigation water, and other such fluids from your patients' mouths during procedures.


These systems also remove dental calculus, dental amalgam, tooth particles, and other debris while treating a patient. 


The related pieces of equipment are something of an unsung hero of the operatory. In many ways, your practice's success depends on their functionality.  


When you started your career, you likely didn’t fantasize about optimizing your dental suction system. Yet, you spend a significant chunk of your workday relying on this specific piece of equipment. 


In fact, your dental evacuation system is as prevalent in your practice as your mouth mirror, dental probe, or scaler. 


Since your dental suction system is so crucial, it requires rigorous care. It deserves your undivided attention to ensure optimal performance.


Why Does Dental Suction System Maintenance Matter?


Your dental suction system often goes overlooked as an unsung hero. Yet, it’s a foundational element of your practice. 


Society's reliance on the internet is a fitting comparison. We’re so used to having the internet at our fingertips. Then, everything falls into chaos and disrepair once there’s a connection problem.  


Now that we mention it, your practice needs properly functioning suction systems more than the internet. You can’t treat your patients without your suction and evacuation systems. If this crucial equipment goes kaput, you’d have to shut down your practice for hours (if not days). 


Thus, maintenance is a must. 


Poorly maintained suction lines go beyond hampering your bottom line (although it will hurt you financially). Your dental evacuation system is a vital infection control component. Biofilms are catalysts for pathogens and can carry infectious material, and properly functioning evacuation systems neutralize these risks.  


You and your team can follow maintenance and disinfection steps to ensure this foundational equipment doesn’t malfunction. Doing so will save you thousands in replacements, professional cleaning, and cancelled appointments.


Delving Further Into Infection Control


The potential for cross-contamination between patients skyrockets when a dental suction system isn’t maintained. 


Backflow is a primary contributor to these risks. 


On the above note, failing to use saliva ejectors properly leads to backflow.  


Previously suctioned fluids will remain in the tubing and enter a patient’s mouth when:


  • The patient shuts their lips around the saliva ejector. 
  • When the suction tubing connected to the saliva ejector is above the patient’s mouth. 
  • If the saliva ejector is used while other evacuation equipment is running.

Typically, the most common usage of saliva ejectors occurs in hygiene treatment rooms. Hygienists often tell patients to close their lips tightly around the saliva ejector tip for efficient fluid removal.  


It should be noted that the CDC acknowledged no adverse health effects resulting from saliva ejectors have been reported. Nonetheless, backflow remains a risk. 


One potential solution is investing in a saliva ejector tip with a built-in backflow prevention mechanism.


Dental Suction System Maintenance Is A Breeze


There’s a lot to be romantic about as a dentist, dental assistant, or dental hygienist. You can change patients' lives by improving their oral health. Making that kind of difference can get you out of bed on even the darkest day. 


However, giving your patients the best care requires that you manage the less-than-romantic aspects of running a practice. 


On that note, maintaining your dental evacuation system isn’t exactly adventurous or engaging. It’s a straightforward, nitty-gritty task that needs doing.  


That said, dental evacuation system maintenance is easy. A plethora of products and systems are available to clean your suction lines efficiently and safely.  


Note that you’ll require a specific dental evacuation system cleaner. A generalized cleaner won’t cut it. For instance, chlorine-based cleaners and bleach shouldn’t be used to flush wastewater lines since they increase the oxidation and dissolution of mercury in the water system.  


You must use compatible cleaners and follow the instructions on the packaging to achieve optimal results.


How Often Should Your Dental Evacuation System Lines Be Flushed?


Your dental suction system should generally be flushed daily, but with a high quality microbial cleaner like Bio-Pure, you can do it twice a week. Most practices find it most convenient to perform this task at the end of the workday. 


Use warm water to flush low-volume suction lines between each appointment. Clean and replace suction traps, too. Dental chair unit manufacturers recommend cleaning traps once every week. Don't hesitate to ask these manufacturers about more granular maintenance details. Their answers will help maximize results.


How Long Does It Take To Perform Dental Suction System Maintenance Tasks?


Dental evacuation system maintenance might not be the most glamorous part of your job. But it’s not time-consuming and can seamlessly fit into the rest of your busy day.  


Each suction system chair unit requires only a few minutes of maintenance weekly. 


Of course, small–albeit crucial–details can fall by the wayside during hectic times. So–it’s vital to make dental suction system maintenance a high-priority task. Highlight it on your calendar with the loudest, most bombastic yellow marker you can find.  


Otherwise, you leave your practice open to ethical and financial risk. All it takes is minimal maintenance work to keep your practice’s reputation intact as an excellent care provider.


What Kind Of Products Should You Use For Your Dental Evacuation Systems?


Bio-Pure offers dental practices a microbial and enzymatic dental Evacuation System Cleaner. It keeps cleaning 24-7 after you’ve applied it until the next usage.  


This product is 100% natural, non-foaming, and amalgam separator approved. Additionally, you won’t need to clean your hand trap every day with Bio-Pure (which also boasts a 6-8 pH balance).  


100% eco-friendly and EPA Amalgam Separator compliant, Bio-Pure can be used at the end of each day. Or, you could apply it twice weekly.  


One of the more attractive features of Bio-Pure is that it costs less per usage than similar products. This benefit stems from Bio-Pure’s use of enzymes to catalyze removing and cleaning debris from the tubing. 


Other potential evacuation system cleaners to consider are Bio-Pure’s Powder eVac System Maintenance Cleaner, Liquid eVac Cleaner, and Between Patient Flush.  


There’s then the matter of shock treatments to help rid your dental evacuation system of the accumulated deposits missed by daily cleanings. In this instance, Bio-Pure’s Evac Restore Kit will do the trick. Bio-Pure Evac Restore Kit is ideal for older offices and simply clearing out the accumulated debris in the evac lines.


Consider These Helpful Pointers For Suction Traps


We briefly touched on the need to remove suction traps once weekly. You’ll need to switch them more often when clogs develop in the traps. 


Whatever you do, avoid tossing used suction traps in the trash. They contain amalgam particles that can be harmful. 


A licensed hazardous/medical waste remover should dispose of suction traps. Amalgam capsules also shouldn’t be thrown into the garbage since there’s a chance they contain mercury.


Dental Evacuation System Maintenance Is A Crucial Facet Of All Dental Practices.


Your dental suction system might be an unsung hero, but that doesn’t make it any less of a hero! It’s foundational dental equipment that keeps your practice running smoothly.  


After all, efficient suctioning is integral to providing safe and reliable dental care to your patients. 

Generic Administrator at 9:15 AM
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