The balance between saving money while preserving quality is a tale as old as time itself.
Dental practice owners far and wide struggle to hit that happy middle where they’re providing top-notch care without breaking the bank.
Overspending to give your patients the best possible results is commendable, but it’s not sustainable. Conversely, skimping on quality means you have to work twice or three times harder to deliver the same patient outcomes as you would with a more strategic approach.
Today, let’s explore a few ways you can get more for less at your practice by cutting down on overhead expenses without sacrificing your standard of oral care.
Understanding Production and Overhead in Your Dental Practice
Before delving into the meat of this article, let’s go over some important terms.
First is production: how much money your practice brings in for dental services provided over a given time. This period could be monthly or yearly, for instance. Many businesses do quarterly reports.
Adjusted production stems from weighing factors such as insurance participation, refunds, or discounts and subtracting them from the amount discussed above.
The collection is how much money is received from the adjusted production.
Net income, or profit, reflects what remains after your expenses are paid, and you’ve collected your revenues.
How to Reduce Overhead Without Sacrificing Quality Care
Overhead is a tricky notion. It cuts directly into your profits, but your dental practice can’t exist without it. Not investing enough into your dental practice will undercut your team's performance.
Fortunately, there’s a way to wisely invest so that you’re not risking your finances to deliver top-notch care. We’ll discuss those methods below:
The majority of dental practices out there operate with hygienists treating less than ten patients per day, along with providing ancillary services (e.g., bitewings) and prophylactic treatments. Although the above treatments are crucial, you could take advantage of the hygiene department in your practice much more than you do now.
Hygienists can also contribute by selling in-office products, resulting in more revenue opportunities and enhancing your reputation with patients. Furthermore, your clientele is bound to appreciate not having to scour the ends of the earth looking for products your hygienist recommended.
Some products dental practices have successfully sold are electric toothbrushes, whitening kits, and water jets.
Most crucial is ensuring your hygienists don’t feel like a separate entity from the rest of your practitioners.
Hygienists need to know they’re integral pieces of your dental practice. They should be aligned with your goals to work to reduce overhead and increase productivity the same as everyone else.
2. Reevaluate Labour Costs
The only way to staff properly is by knowing your practice and its business model inside and out and ask yourself the following questions:
Does your practice use an outside coordinator for insurance or third-party sterilization technology? If so, should you pay for eight hours a day, or could you outsource?
Can assisted hygiene get rid of appointment wait times and bolster the experiences of your patients?
Can you combine prophylaxis with fixed or removable deliveries, operative or postoperative visits?
Another consideration is the rise in salary for hygienists. For some practice budgets, it’s plainly not affordable. Yet, you still can’t sacrifice quality. So, instead of hiring more hygienists, many practice owners bring on new assistants at a far lower cost while still seeing more patients without sacrificing standards or performance.
Of course, you don’t want to take away anyone’s job, but this approach works best when you’re undergoing changes in staffing (e.g., a hygienist has quit). Plus, you’ll want to keep on hygienists wherever possible – your patients know and like their hygienists, who bring so many benefits to your practice.
3. Keep a Tight Inventory
Do not get sucked into the subscription-based schemes that many supply companies utilize to capitalize on practice owners. Supply companies will also slowly increase contracted rates under your nose if you take your eyes off the prize.
Moreover, you might negotiate great prices initially, and you could be part of specific business groups to receive discounts. Yet, you still might look into your cabinet drawers, operatory shelves, and supply closet and get a nasty surprise.
We suggest taking a weekend, getting a bunch of containers, and starting the decluttering process. Then, take out every supply you have, and before organizing everything, label your shelves.
At this point, it’s time to create your inventory lists. That means counting everything.
Under no circumstances should you order anything without knowing what you already have. Eventually, delegate this task to staff members before ordering supplies. At first, though, you should do it on your own to garner a hands-on understanding of your inventory.
We must then emphasize that you shouldn’t have a list of what’s empty – only write down how many supplies you have.
Also, remember what you paid for supplies when you bought them previously. This knowledge helps prevent price creep from your suppliers. Buy items with long shelf lives in bulk if you have lots of storage space (e.g., an unused operatory), and always keep an eye open for sales.
Ensure that staff marks the packing list next to delivered items. These new supplies must be stored in their designated space, and the stock must be rotated.
4. Own Your Practice's Real Estate
Owning the land on which your practice is located offers several key advantages. Namely, you can control your rent and build your retirement nest egg since you’re increasing equity. You can either earn income as a landlord or eventually make a sale, presenting enormous money-making opportunities.
Additionally, you have more control and freedom with your practice when you outright own it.
Keeping the above factors top of mind, refinancing options are worth exploring for your office property.
Provided a sale isn’t possible for you, we suggest investigating the following options:
Free introductory rent
Investing in extra signage to increase visibility
Ask about allowances for tenant improvement
See if you can renew your lease and if COVID concessions are available
Ask your landlord to refer patients
5. Bring in Balances Owed
Collecting what you’re owed by patients and insurance companies will remove a huge chunk of your overhead.
Run an aging report on the last day of every month. Mark it in your planner or calendar to ensure you don’t forget.
Hand out a printed copy of the account balances from the past two months to your front desk team.
Start with the insurance companies, since collecting those balances is the most straightforward part of this process. All your team needs to do is resubmit the claim.
As for patients, get your front desk staff to text a reminder if they’ve already been given a billing statement.
If you reinforce the importance of collecting balances with a monthly report, it will increase the chances it gets done. Furthermore, provided you’re still using more traditional approaches, consider upgrading to direct deposit payments and electronic claims to speed up insurance collections.
Your practice now has a blueprint for saving on overhead without cutting into the quality of care you provide patients. Don’t get discouraged if the benefits don’t come fast and furious. This strategy is long-term, and you’ll learn as you go, tailoring solutions to your specific situation!
Your tools of the trade as a dental professional can make all the difference in how effectively and successfully you perform your work.
In some instances, the above notion means finding the optimal traditional tools (e.g., drills, scalers, suction devices) that bolster performance. You take the time to adapt your choice of equipment to your specific needs and the types of patients you help.
However, as a dental professional looking to optimize patient results – thereby enhancing your practice’s reputation – you need to look beyond your standard tools.
If you haven’t upgraded yet, there’s no time like the present. We’re amid the technological revolution. So, it should be no surprise that there have been dental innovations in the digital space.
What Is Digital Dentistry?
Digital dentistry includes 3D printers and scanners, but goes beyond that specific scope. The term applies to any service bolstered by computers within a dental lab or practice.
Typically, the main benefits you’ll experience from such tools are increased precision and heightened efficiency.
Read on as we highlight areas of the average practice where digital dentistry is proving most impactful.
1. Restorations Using Digitized Models
Digitized models are used to help generate EMAX and PFM crowns, which are cut with 3D mills to ensure quality, ease of replication, and accuracy.
Digitally-enhanced implants first require dentists to use a scan body to capture a digital model. Before scanning the patient, a scan body must be inserted into the denture.
Doing so can create a digital model that displays the correct denture position.
When compared to gluing, modifying, test fitting, re-test fitting, screwing pieces together, etc., the digitized process is more precise and simplified. The patient experience is enhanced as it’s more streamlined and comfortable.
It’s also possible to design the properly-fitting teeth for a patient’s face in a 3D model and 3D print a mould of those teeth. You can then fill the printed mould with the white composite to provide patients with digitally-bonded veneers that help maintain the structure of their teeth.
2. Digital Diagnostic Tools and Recordkeeping
The digital revolution is taking dental diagnostics by storm. One instance involves intra-oral scanning systems that help locate cavities via infrared technology.
Prompt diagnoses and the ability to identify changes in oral health in real-time are made far easier by maintaining digital records of a patient’s mouth. A fully digital, paperless recordkeeping process is one of the latest trends in the dental industry, fast-forwarded by COVID-19 and the desire to go contactless.
When you digitize patient files, you can access them instantly, removing the need to shuffle through an endless pile of documents in a cabinet. Relevant files such as insurance information, clinical notes, x-rays, etc., are better organized by being saved in one, easily accessible digital file.
The heightened efficiency offered by having your records consolidated into one digital space keeps practice teams updated without the need to scour scattered, chaotic physical files.
For instance, 3D models of a patient’s mouth can be included in digital records. Historic scans and related files are also available.
Clearly, digital recordkeeping saves you and your team lots of time. But it also saves space, allowing you to store crucial information on a USB stick–not on plaster moulds.
3. Guided Dental Surgeries
As a growing trend in the dental space, guided surgeries are made possible by creating a digital model of a patient’s mouth. A CBCT scan and intra-oral scanner design a logical and pinpoint surgery plan.
Such tech can be used for oral surgeries ranging from a mere implant to an entire bone graft.
Advantages Of Digital Dentistry
Below are the indisputable advantages associated with digital dentistry. We’ll note that digital recordkeeping is omitted, but only because it was discussed in detail in the above section.
Improved accuracy and efficiency: Using a computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) tech, prostheses can be made precisely and time-efficiently. Processes are also simplified when performing changes (e.g., fittings and colour) to a patient’s teeth or mouth.
Instant feedback: Scans can quickly be sent to labs for verification purposes without your patient ever leaving the dental chair. You’ll know whether a scan is ideal right away, not wasting anybody’s time.
Increased patient well-being: When held up next to traditional X-rays, digital radiography requires far lower radiation. Immediately, that’s a substantial health-based benefit for patients. Additionally, procedures that employ digital dentistry tools (e.g., mould creation) cause far less discomfort than non-digitized approaches. Patients also prefer the results because the feel, colour, and most other factors are vastly improved via digitization.
Use Cases for Digital Dentistry
To illustrate, here are some real-world examples where digital dentistry significantly improves procedures, vastly enhancing your work quality and patient experience.
Case Study: TMJ Rehabilitation
A case report from a few years ago examined the results of a 47-year-old male with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) symptoms. Aesthetically, he was worried about one of his veneers being chipped.
The patient was treated with a 100% digital workflow, which entailed:
This rehabilitation was meant to prevent the loss of vertical dimension, help subside TMJ problems, and offset damage to other aesthetics.
Findings from the case report indicated how it’s possible to successfully solve issues such as loss of vertical dimension through 100% digitized approaches.
However, the report cites the need for further clinical studies to compile consistent results generated through these procedures from digitized dental workflows versus traditional techniques.
Case Study: Root Extraction and Restoration
A case study from Dentaltown looks at a situation where a hygienist discovered an external root resorption lesion on one of their patient’s teeth (#21).
Then, a CBCT helped determine that the tooth needed to be extracted. To close the space, the patient–after receiving advice from their practitioner–decided to receive an implant instead of orthodontic treatment.
The practitioner worked with the patient to outline their extraction plan, the healing timeline, the implant placement, and the time required for implant osseointegration and restoration.
Next, the patient was imaged in Cerec Ortho before the extraction. It allowed for bite registration and full-arch scanning, making it possible to print a 3D model used to copy the existing tooth shape into the implant restoration.
Practitioner-related stress was reduced with the more accurate digital impression because there’s no stone model to break by removing a thermoplastic retainer. 3D models are durable, but they can also be quickly reprinted if something does happen.
Furthermore, the practitioner found the 3D-printed model streamlined the implant placement process, acting as a guide.
Now, there was an issue the tooth #20 not leaving enough room for the implant. The patient elected for limited orthodontic movement aided by more 3D modelling that helped develop an aligner the patient would wear for 10 days to move tooth #20 accordingly.
After another aligner was used, the implant treatment was performed as scheduled and without a hitch.
According to the practitioner, one of the crucial advantages of the digitized process was using actual soft tissue contours to outline the parameters for the final restoration. Analog workflows don’t allow for such accuracy and precision.
It’s time for your practice to embrace the future. The right digital dental tools will vastly improve your performance, increase your return on investment, and offer better patient outcomes. There’s nothing more a dental professional can ask for!
In life, what works for one person might not work for someone else. The world of dentistry is much the same.
From one-off treatments to entire oral health plans, patients need tailored care that suits their unique needs.
When you go with a one-size-fits-all approach, you limit the chances of your patients achieving peak oral health and you stifle yourself from growing as a practitioner.
With the above sentiments in mind, we’ll confidently say there's no hard and fast answer when choosing between the two best methods of interdental cleaning: water picking (also known as water flossing) and flossing. It depends on the situation, the practitioner, and the patient, as we’ll discuss below.
First, a quick refresher: why is it so important to clean between the teeth?
Why Cleaning Between The Teeth Is Essential
We all know the base-level oral health principles or rules you tell all your patients:
Brush twice per day.
Clean the spaces between all teeth once per day at minimum.
It's that tricky second point that tends to get your patients confused.
Too often, people think consistent brushing alone is enough to prevent tooth loss, gum disease, bad breath, and cavities. Unfortunately, while frequent brushing is a core building block to optimal oral health, it’s not enough..
Between your teeth hide the bacteria, plaque, and food particles that evade your toothbrush’s bristles, which aren’t small enough to reach those nooks and crannies.
Instead, those areas require your patients to use one or both of the two following two tools to perform interdental cleaning:
Water pick or Water-flosser
Water Picking/Water Flossing
Let’s delve into the finer points of water picking/flossing first, before taking a closer look at the traditional method of dental floss.
What Is A Water-Flosser/Water Pick?
A water-flosser cleans away bacteria, particles, and food particles under your gums and between your teeth with pulsating water from a pressurized stream.
According to the American Dental Association, water-flossers can successfully rid teeth and gums of plaque. Thus, these tools prevent gum disease and cavities – a primary benefit of plaque removal.
Water-flossers are typically ideal for patients with dental implants, crowns, braces, or bridges.
The Right Way to Use a Water-Flosser
Step 1: - Fill the reservoir with warm water
Step 2: - Press on the device’s base firmly
Step 3: - Select a tip - Click the tip into the handle
Step 4: - Use the lowest pressure setting at the beginning - While leaning over the sink, place the tip in your mouth to avoid spilling water
Step 5: - Switch on the water-flosser - Prevent water splashes by partially closing your mouth
Step 6: - Allow water to flow to the sink from your mouth
Step 7: - The tip should be aimed at your gum line
Step 8: - Turn the device off when complete. - To remove the tip, hit the “eject” button
Benefits Of Water Picking
Since the handle design is comfort-forward, water-flossing gives people with arthritis a comfortable option for cleaning between their teeth. It’s also good for people who happen to struggle with traditional floss strings.
These tools get into areas that can be tough to reach, such as tight spaces between teeth and gum disease-induced periodontal pockets.
Most importantly, a water-flosser can clean between the teeth without causing the gums to bleed.
Drawbacks Of Water Picking
Water-flossing doesn’t necessarily remove all plaque, and it’s far more expensive than regular floss, ranging between $35 and $100. Water-flossers can also be tough to get used to, resulting in frustrating messes and spills.
Everybody should floss, as it’s a critical component of dental hygiene. Nowadays, floss is available in many flavours and is wax or unwaxed.
The Right Way To Floss
Step 1: - Wind an 18-inch piece of floss around both middle fingers
Step 2: - Leave 1 to 2 inches between your hands by pinching the floss with your thumbs and first fingers
Step 3: - Use both hands to pull the floss tight - Your index fingers should create a back and forth motion
Step 4: - Wrap the floss around the tooth and slide it up and down the tooth surfaces and beneath the gums
Step 5: - Start at the bottom teeth and work your way to the top
Benefits Of Traditional Flossing
Flossing is the easiest, most affordable, tried-and-true way to remove plaque and food particles from your teeth. It’s also convenient to purchase, as you can find it promptly in any grocery or drug store.
Drawbacks Of Traditional Flossing
A primary issue with flossing is how tough it can be to reach some parts of your mouth. It can also cause a bit of bleeding.
Flossing might also lead to sensitive gums (or exacerbate them). The floss thread itself can be difficult to use, especially if you have arthritis.
Flossing vs. Water Picking: Which is Better?
Water picking is no substitute for flossing, but it provides unparalleled benefits to the patients that need it.
So, our final verdict is neither water picking nor traditional flossing is better.
The answer is based on your patient’s needs and oral care plan since water picking and traditional flossing provide exceptional results when used appropriately!
Knowledge and skill are crucial to your role as an oral healthcare provider - but if you don't have the right tools available to you, knowledge and skill won't be enough.
The wrong dental handpiece will hinder even the most reliable hygienist or dentist, causing fatigue and leading to drawn-out procedure times.
Only by equipping each member of the team with the appropriate handpiece can you overcome these obstacles.
Your handpiece is crucial to your success. By choosing the right dental handpiece, you can eliminate fatigue, decrease procedure times, increase patient satisfaction, and see more patients per workday.
The Wrong Handpiece Causes Fatigue and Musculoskeletal Problems
As a dentist or dental hygienist, you are susceptible to certain musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as carpal tunnel. Dental practitioners are cited as being on the list of professionals most susceptible to MSD-based conditions, including:
Since working with dental handpieces necessitates contorting arms and hands over extended periods, it’s one of the aspects of your job conducive to MSDs. Therefore, it’s absolutely critical to find a handpiece that mitigates the strain by finding an ergonomic handpiece.
Specifically, it’s best to avoid heavy handpieces, which become painful after long stretches of usage. That strain accumulates over time, slowly breaking down the bodies of industry professionals, often leading to early retirement.
The Value of An Ergonomic Handpiece
A lighter handpiece improves ergonomics immediately, reducing fatigue, improving hand lineage, and even bettering your vision. This steady stream of advantages leads to higher levels of comfort and substantially superior clinical performance.
What To Look For in an Ergonomic Handpiece
While high speed handpieces have always been lightweight (at 3 ounces), slower handpieces meant for polishing have typically weighed in at 0.5 pounds. Such heaviness is tough enough for any dental professional, but clinicians with small hands are particularly at risk.
Nowadays, there’s been a shift in how polishing-focused handpieces are built, with evenly distributed weight being a primary feature. This evolution has led to polishing handpieces weighing in at 3 ounces, similar to the high speed makes.
2. Hand Size and Balance
Just as a large, heavy handpiece won’t suit a petite practitioner, a smaller handpiece wouldn’t work for more sizable clinicians with large hands.
Furthermore, the old-fashioned, slower handpieces have heavy motors at one end. This design forces the clinician to leverage the added weight throughout procedures to maintain handpiece balance.
Over time, this increased workload leads to injuries from repetitive stress and fatigue. Vulnerability is particularly present in the muscles and nerves of the hands and forearms.
A critical factor you must consider with your handpiece is noise and its impact on your patients’ experiences.
Dental drills are a common source of patient anxiety and unease. Even the most compliant, easy-going patient can become uncooperative due to this equipment’s high-pitched whine.
You’ve probably seen the signs first hand – a patient who has buried their chin into their chest and tensed their facial muscle. At this point, it’s challenging to even execute the most basic of tasks that you’d usually be able to perform in your sleep.
These tensions don’t make your job any easier, adding to your ergonomic strife.
While the discomfort suffered by your patient might be unavoidable, they still require the best care possible. You don’t need the high-pitch sounds being a distraction to you as well. It, therefore, will be beneficial to equip team members with custom-made earplugs to block out the noise.
This way, even when patients are struggling, they’ll receive the care they deserve.
The Economic Advantages of Sound Ergonomics
Having the right dental handpiece in your practice allows everyone to perform their job better and more efficiently.
Fatigue and pain will be limited, so your team can see more patients since they won’t be tired and sore. Plus, the higher quality equipment ensures that work is done faster, creating room in the schedule for more patients.
Additionally, the work performed with the superior equipment will be of higher quality, thereby encouraging more patients to come to your practice. And more patients means more revenue.
Investing in high-quality ergonomic handpieces also extends the career – and earning potential–of your team of practitioners, so everybody makes more money in the long run.
When it comes to buying dental handpieces, you want each practitioner at your practice to have the tools they need to perform at their best so your patients get the best possible outcome.
Understanding the anatomy of a dental handpiece will help you better understand what you’re looking for in a handpiece. To that end, the following article discusses in detail about the various parts and components of a dental handpiece, as well as how they each serve their purpose.
1. Dental Handpiece Body
The body, neck, and head form the largest and most important part of a dental handpiece. Cheap, less durable handpieces usually have a body made of an inexpensive metal such as brass. Stainless steel is a lighter and more durable body option than brass, offering greater protection against damage caused by autoclaving. Titanium is even lighter than stainless steel, but titanium is also more expensive; stainless steel offers the same functionality at a lower cost.
The body delivers air and water to the handpiece head, which includes:
Drive air (which rotates the turbine)
Chip air (this atomizes water spray)
After passing through the turbine, drive air is exhausted through the handpiece’s hollow body and down the tubing.
New sterilizer designs stave off internal corrosive buildup that closes off the handpiece exhaust ports by applying fresh distilled water for every steam cycle.
Some models come with multi-port water spray that evenly distributes water throughout the work area.
2. Dental Handpiece Turbine
Handpiece turbines operate at free and active speeds.
The maximum rpm with no load is classified as free speed. Conversely, the active speed is the rpm to which the turbine decreases during engagement with the tooth.
Often, a high-speed handpiece’s active speed is between 300,000 and 450,000 RPM, allowing for streamlined teeth cutting. It also leaves a clean, smoothed-out margin that mitigates trauma to the impacted tissues and structures. Slow speed handpieces run between 5,000 and 40,000 RPM.
The torque and power measure a handpiece’s ability to remove tooth structure. Power is measured in watts of energy, while torque is expressed in oz/inch.
Older generation handpieces could only generate 10 to 13 watts of power, paling when compared to their newer counterparts' 15 to 18 watts. Another potential advantage of new models is smaller head sizes.
With more power comes less physical demand as a practitioner, reducing strain and fatigue on your hands and wrist. This perk provides long-term ergonomic benefits that extend practitioners’ careers.
3. Dental Handpiece Bur
Burs are fixed or interchangeable tools attached to the handpiece that are used for cutting, grinding, and removing hard and soft tissue in the oral cavity. Dental burs are typically made from tungsten carbide or diamond. The component that securely holds the bur for polishing or cutting is called the chuck.
Turbine life can be impacted by the cutting instrument or bur. Overusing dull burs can cause you to place more lateral force against the tooth structure. As a result, the side load on bearings increases, generating too much friction during handpiece operation.
Sable Industries offers two fiber optic high speed handpiece models that fit onto Kavo MultiFLEX couplers and two non-optical high speed handpiece models that fit onto Sable 4-hole couplers. Sable model Kavo MultiFLEX couplers (4, 5 & 6 hole), NSK style couplers (4 & 6 hole), and Sable couplers for our non-optic high speeds (2 & 4 hole). All 6 hole couplers come in both LED or Halogen bulb variations (Kavo and NSK styles).
Anatomy of a Handpiece and its Impact on the Buying Process
Head Size and Angle
Head size and cutting power typically contrast, leading to a natural balancing act between the two.
Smaller head sizes contribute to enhanced access and visibility in the posterior region.
Alternatively, larger head sizes utilize a bigger turbine impeller with greater inertial mass levels. This feature leads to increased power output. With more power comes less time spent on tooth preparation.
You also must weigh head angulation.
Typically, handpiece heads have been angled 22.5 degrees backward to keep the instrument in a practitioner’s line of sight. The pitfall here is limited access to posterior teeth. The handpiece will contact the maxillary arch, too, causing patient discomfort.
However, the head angles on newer designs improve access to posterior teeth while providing increased patient comfort.
Long-term hearing loss is a real and present risk for dental professionals using high-speed handpieces throughout their careers.
Beyond that, when handpieces are too loud, it’s detrimental to your bedside manner, causing discomfort for patients and triggering their anxiety.
Newer handpiece models operate with reduced sound levels, operating anywhere between 58 and 71 decibels.
Ergonomic Body Design
Carpal tunnel syndrome and other related musculoskeletal diseases can result from holding awkward, heavy handpieces for extended periods.
Fortunately, handpieces are constructed with drastically different lengths, weights, and balances, meaning models exist for practitioners of all sizes. Find the best feel and fit for your hand by “test-driving” ergonomic handpieces at your practice. Don’t demo a handpiece at a tradeshow because it can’t adequately emulate your work environment.
Wider, flared body shapes at the handpiece’s rear are currently trending. This design offsets the need for pinching force when gripping the instrument, limiting wrist and hand fatigue.
Water spray–used as a coolant–is a feature found in all high-speed handpieces.
The cutting-edge technology these days is a multiport spray from the face of the handpiece. This innovation results in evenly distributed coolant water across the tooth’s surface. It also prevents any blocking of water spray during cutting on the distal tooth surface.
Fiber optics dictate your visibility when using a handpiece.
Cellular optics are now being used in handpiece construction. Instead of being made from a collection of optic fibers, cellular optics are made of one solid glass rod.
LED light bulbs are the latest innovation in fiber optics, generating a whiter, brighter light.
Fully rotating swivels can be added to connect delivery tubing to the handpiece. This feature decreases tubing torque, preventing long-term wear and tear.
By choosing the correct dental equipment for your practice, you’ll improve patient outcomes, enhance your reputation as a care provider, and bolster your bottom line.
However, it’s not necessarily easy to find the correct equipment for your practice. Many factors are involved. No more is this evident than with the array of elements you must weigh when choosing a slow speed dental handpiece.
First, you need to know the difference between slow speed and high speed handpieces.
Then, there are features like lighting, propulsion, service and maintenance to consider.
Factors like budget and lifespan are also at play, making your buyer’s journey an even more complex process.
To help, here is a guide on the most important factors to consider when choosing a new slow speed handpiece for your practice.
Recap: What’s the Difference Between High Speed and Slow Speed Handpieces?
Your practice doesn’t only need one type of handpiece. There are different handpieces with their own unique purposes.
High speed dental handpieces are precision devices that efficiently remove tooth tissue with exceptional speed. High speed handpieces can be purchased in multiple sizes, shapes, and general construction, and run at speeds between 300,000 and 450,000 RPM. Features for high speed handpieces are plentiful and differ depending on the model. High speed handpieces are most often used when shaping crowns and fillings and for teeth polishing.
Slow speed dental handpieces are also classified as precision tools by dental specialists and practitioners, but run at slower speeds of 5,000 to 40,000 RPM. There’s no need for water circulation with these slower-speed models since they don’t operate fast enough to generate high heat. The primary purpose of slow speed handpieces is heavy jobs such as cavity removal, preparation for crown, veneer, and fillings, restorative work, and orthodontic procedures.
Slow speed handpieces have a longer lifespan than their high speed counterparts, in large part because of the lesser operating speed. This results in minimized strain on the device’s mechanical components.
Slow Speed Handpiece Propulsion
There are two different types of propulsions you’ll be examining when searching for your slow speed dental handpiece: air-driven and electric propulsion.
Air Driven Slow Speed Handpieces
Air drive propulsion in handpieces is a decades-old technology that’s been researched thoroughly over the years. The air-driven propulsion technology is versatile, and practitioners love how straightforward this feature is to service and maintain.
When air driven, handpieces usually benefit from increased cutting precision, resulting from more powerful torque. It’s also generally lighter in weight.
If there’s one pitfall to be aware of with air-driven handpieces, it’s vulnerability to overheating. Additionally, the motor produces loud noises, which can be difficult for patients.
Electric Slow Speed Handpieces
Although slightly slower than their air-driven counterparts, electric motors offer steady torque, allowing them to withstand increased resistance.
Due to this more consistent, fixed speed, there’s a faster and smooth cutting experience with electric propulsion. Moreover, the electric variation is far quieter than air-driven handpieces and doesn’t vibrate the teeth. Therefore, unsurprisingly, electric handpieces are preferred by patients.
One pitfall of the electric model is that it's heavier than air driven handpieces, leading to fatigue and potential ergonomic issues. For an everyday slow speed handpiece, most practitioners prefer a steady, lighter air driven model.
You need proper lighting to perform any dental treatment, which should be a factor in determining your preferred slow speed handpiece.
When your handpiece has a built-in light, it’s easier to use because of the improved vision.
Nowadays, many handpieces are built with LED lighting, slowly but surely making the traditional halogen lights in dental equipment obsolete. LED lighting has a 10-times longer lifespan than its halogen counterparts, produces less heat, and offers a far more comfortable patient experience.
The types of procedures a handpiece can perform will be determined by its size.
With smaller handpieces, you’ll enjoy superior visibility, lending themselves to intensive operative procedures.
Also, the connection to a handpiece’s tip is unique, leading to potential compatibility issues. So, ensure that your existing tools fit your new handpiece before buying one.
Service and Maintenance
You’ll receive detailed maintenance and proper care instructions when you purchase your handpiece. Examine this manual thoroughly since each brand has different requirements and standards.
After each time you use it, all handpiece parts should be sterilized. Thus, you’ll want a handpiece that isn’t hard to take apart between procedures. A quicker sterilization process will ensure not a minute is wasted between patients.
Slow speed dental handpieces are known for their extended lifespan, but you shouldn’t rest on that singular laurel alone. You can still get even more out of your handpiece by doing your research and purchasing a product known for durability.
Here are some factors you should consider when researching the lifespan of your potential new slow speed handpiece:
How long is the warranty?
What are the specifics of the warranty? What does it cover?
How easily can you leverage the warranty when required? This is where customer service is key.
Weighing Your Budget
You could end up paying hundreds for your slow speed handpiece, or you could spend well over $1,000.
Of course, you shouldn’t overpay. But you need to ask yourself, “what is overpaying?” Because dropping a little extra cash for equipment that allows you to do your job better is well worth it.
Furthermore, many handpiece providers offer financing options. So, even if your current budget is limited, there’s the potential to not sacrifice quality in the name of tightening your financial belt.
Last but not least, look for package deals and BOGO offers. Sable Industries offers quarterly promotions on all our slow speed handpieces that often include a buy three, get one free deal.
Start Your slow Speed Handpiece Buyer’s Journey
Before ending this article, we will point out the value of taking your potential new slow speed handpiece for a test run. Doing so will tell you if the handpiece is comfortable for your team members and conducive to quality dental work.
Then, once you’ve followed all these crucial steps, you’re ready to embark on your slow speed handpiece buyer’s journey.
Remember that your patients deserve the best possible treatments your budget can offer. And your dental equipment is an investment in their oral health as much as it’s an investment in your practice’s long-term success.
You might not think of your dental handpiece as an investment, but it's a significant one nonetheless. It's a key component of your dental operations' productivity and efficiency ‒ when it’s working properly.
When it’s not working properly… your high speed handpiece can feel more like a burden.
But if you do your homework, you'll reap all the positives and avoid any negatives.
With all that in mind, this article will discuss the necessary considerations that go into making this practice-defining purchase.
The Nuts and Bolts of High Speed Dental Handpiece
First, a quick refresher on basic functionality of a high speed dental handpiece.
Handpieces work alongside a bur (i.e., a drill bit to a drill).
They operate at speeds between 200,000 rpm and 450,000 rpm
These devices remove tooth tissue, prepares cavities for restoration/crowns
They can cut through virtually anything (if the burr is correct)
High speed handpieces incorporate cooling water spray to offset the pulp from overheating
6 Factors to Consider Before Buying a Handpiece
1. Torque Power
A large turbine will deliver more torque, which is directly related to the handpiece’s overall cutting power. The power of air-driven dental handpieces generally ranges from 12 W to 26 W.
2. Bur Rotation Concentricity
Bur rotation concentricity defines the bur head’s precision manufacturing.
Controlling the noise levels of the handpiece during a procedure ensures the patient remains comfortable. It also prevents you from experiencing damage to your hearing.
4. Warranty Length
The longer the warranty, the more confident the manufacturer is in their handpiece’s quality.
5. Turbine Repair Cost
Your turbine will likely need repairs or refurbishments when your warranty period ends. Before purchasing your high speed handpiece one should consider cost of repair.
6. Initial Cost
This is your upfront investment being made in each handpiece.
The Battle Between Size and Power
When it comes to high speeds, there is a clear trade-off between handpiece head size and cutting power.
When the head is larger, so is the turbine mass. The result? More cutting power, measured in torque (ounce-inches) and watt (energy). Torque will determine how long it takes to remove a specific amount of tooth material.
Big powerful head sizes could impede your access and ability to see parts of the oral cavity. Although some handpieces with this feature can improve oral cavity access with their modified head-to-body angle. The 105° angle ensures your patients won’t feel any discomfort when you reach far back on their maxillary arch.
While the goal of most manufacturers is to reduce the head size, they’ve often been handcuffed by the standard bearing sizes typically available.
In fact, dental bearings were manufactured with 1 mm balls until just a few years back.
But some models have dropped to a 0.75 mm bearing, allowing for a smaller head.
However, these designs are proprietary and can’t be sold to anyone else. Therefore, you’d only be able to get such a handpiece repaired with the adhering manufacturer and nobody else. And that might cost you a little extra.
Keep Regulatory Compliance in Mind
We’re at the tail-end of a pandemic, and it’s understandable if your practice is still trying to find its footing after a tough 2-plus years.
As a result, you might be looking to cut costs whenever possible. But there are limits to a shoestring budget. You can’t let your attempts to be financially responsible lead you to cutting corners and purchasing a low-quality, off-brand handpiece from a sketchy internet company.
Instead, regardless of your budget, you must ensure you’re using a product that’s regulatory compliant. That’s the only way to keep your patients safe and give them the quality of care they deserve.
Don’t Rush Your Decision
You and your patients deserve the best possible high speed handpiece your budget will allow. It’s okay to spend a little bit extra for quality if it means you’ll end up getting the most use out of it.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and look up product reviews. And do whatever is necessary to ensure you’re landing on a product that bolsters the quality of your dental care.
A painter has their paintbrush. A carpenter has their hammer. And you have your dental handpiece.
Whatever your preferred tool of the trade, it should always be specific to your needs and work style. It can’t be too small, nor can it be too big. And not too fast, nor too slow.
Nope – your dental handpiece needs to be just right for the given task at hand.
Handpieces are used for all types of appointments in your practice. So, your preferred drill must empower you to offer your patients the best possible care. Doing so will bolster their long-term oral health along with the reputation of your practice.
Sure, finding a reliable handpiece isn’t exactly rocket science. Still, you should put in your due diligence to find the best available product that blends functionality, quality, and budget appropriateness.
The conversation about handpieces typically boils down to high speed and slow speed. Let's talk about the differences between the two categories.
Defining a High Speed Dental Handpiece
High speed dental handpieces are precision devices focused on seamlessly removing tooth tissue.
These quick-moving drills don’t create vibrations and don’t cause increases in pressure or heat. They’re available in various sizes, shapes, and models.
The operations of high speed drills occur between 300,000 and 450,000 RPMs.
Additionally, these drills can be further distinguished by specific features, such as:
Head attachment type
Generally, high speed drills are used for teeth polishing procedures and crown/filling shaping.
Defining a Slow Speed Dental Handpiece
Like their high speed counterparts, slow speed handpieces are viewed as precision tools for dental practitioners. But unlike high speed drills, these slow speed devices operate at 5,000 to 40,000 RPMs.
Slow speed drills don’t create high heat levels, so they don’t require water circulation.
Typically, slow speed handpieces are saved for heavy-duty purposes such as:
Preparing teeth for crowns, fillings, or veneers
A standout benefit of a slow speed handpiece is its extended lifespan that vastly exceeds its high speed counterpart. This longevity stems from the lessened operating speed, which generates reduced strain on the device’s mechanical facets.
Additional Handpiece Types
To give you a more well-rounded look at handpieces, we’ll discuss a few more options that can be used for given procedures in your practice:
Electric handpiece motor – 40,000 RPM
These contra-angle tools are incredibly powerful and help save time while improving accuracy.
The electric motors on these handpieces produce torque that offsets the reliance on air-driven precision.
Electric handpieces are ideal for difficult angles and tight spaces.
These are also available in varying flexibilities.
They possess grated vents that stop air from spraying into a patient’s oral cavity during a procedure.
These handpieces are specific to root canal treatments, focused on cleaning and shaping the canal.
Endodontic handpieces are precise in how they drive endodontic files. This feature stops file breakage and binding.
These handpieces can reciprocate or rotate. Either way, they’ll work with your preferred file system and gel with other operation equipment.
Implant handpieces are reserved for oral and maxillofacial surgery.
These tools are constructed with high quality stainless steel.
The extra coat on these drills makes them more robust.
Do your due diligence when purchasing your dental drill. Having the right roster of handpieces will help ensure you’re prepared for all procedures, no matter how tricky.
When you’re prepared to provide as many treatments as possible, the more patients you can help. That leads to an increase in appointments and a vastly expanded client base over the long haul.
Further Considerations for Finding the Best Handpiece for Your Practice
Before going on a wild dental handpiece shopping spree, you need to perform an honest appraisal of what type of procedures you actually perform in your practice. That might sound like a statement from Captain Obvious. But even the best of us can get wowed by a flashy piece of equipment we don’t need.
Also, be economical with your choices. That doesn’t mean underspending at the cost of quality. Just be aware of value-based buying opportunities. For example, many current models can function in high and slow speed capacities.
You also need to mull over the following factors:
How the instrument is balanced
Then you must ask: what’s required for maintenance? Something arduous and time-consuming might not be worth the investment. You’re already busy enough with your patients. Spending hours on maintenance tasks might not be the wisest way to spend your time.
With the valuable information discussed above, you’re ready to find your all-star handpiece.
Your dental practice is a business. In business, reputation is everything. And reputation comes from keeping all your moving parts in good working order.
So when your equipment isn't working properly, it costs you money. This creates practice-wide inefficiencies that trickle down to how your patients view your treatment approach in the long run.
Plus, this blind spot might put them in harm’s way. To have a top-notch practice, you need a top-notch evacuation system.
Your evacuation system is one of the most crucial pieces of dental equipment in your practice. It only makes sense to give it the necessary TLC to ensure it performs at its best.
However, some confusion seems to exist, as highlighted in a recent Dental Economics piece, regarding whether it’s best to clean or to disinfect your dental evacuation system’s suction lines.
In this article, we aim to provide you with an answer to this question.
Both Cleaning and Disinfection Are Necessary
While suction lines need to be cleaned frequently, there’s some controversy and confusion about the products you’re supposed to use.
Specifically, are you supposed to clean or disinfect your suction lines?
It’s an important question because using incompatible products that don’t jive with your evacuation system could cause a reaction with the solids collector’s contents. So, applying the proper methods is absolutely crucial.
That said, disinfecting and cleaning are equally necessary, just at different times.
The Backflow Problem
Low-volume suction lines used for the saliva ejector can cause backflow that has a slight potential to cause cross-contamination.
Most typically, the saliva injector’s home is in hygiene treatment rooms. There, patients are told by their hygienists to tightly close their lips around the tip of the ejector. This encourages the efficient removal of fluids.
The most recent study about saliva ejectors and backflow goes back to 2006 when the CDC suggested that patients shouldn’t be told to close their lips around the injector.
Also, to deal with contamination, it was said that daily disinfection was necessary for suction lines.
When to Clean Suction Lines
Using an evacuation system cleaner, you must clean suction lines in the hygiene treatment room every day. Doing so removes debris and blood. Additionally, you’ll need to run a system-compatible disinfectant through any tubing.
Make sure to disinfect low-volume suction lines before you see every patient. The best practice is to use a small amount of disinfectant/waterline cleaner on these occasions because they are compatible with the evacuation system.
We’ll also point out that you don’t need to disinfect high-volume suction lines between patients since backflow doesn’t affect this area. Still, you need to maintain daily cleanings because debris can clog the lines after accumulating. And remember to apply shock treatments every so often.
Products to Consider
This section will provide a list of products that you can use to clean or disinfect your suction lines.
Note: While these will be excellent products (and tested for compatibility), still inquire about the manufacturer’s suggestions to learn what disinfectants are compatible with your evacuation system.
The evacuation system cleaners below possess enzymes that get rid of debris from the tubing:
Avoid using chlorine-based products in suction lines. Chlorine causes corrosion of metal components. Moreover, research shows that oxidizers lead to the amalgam particles releasing mercury, contaminating the water.
Don’t Forget Your Suction Traps!
Ensure that you’re switching disposable suction traps weekly (or even more frequently than that if the traps get clogged).
Don’t throw used suction traps into the trash because of the amalgam particles they contain. Instead, a licensed medical/hazardous waste remover should dispose of the traps. The same notion goes for amalgam capsules because they might contain mercury.
Make Evacuation System and Suction Cup Cleaning a Top Priority. Patient and Staff Safety Depends on It.
Your evacuation system is the most critical component of your dental practice. But it can also be the most dangerous when you don’t take care of it.
So, proper suction pipe cleaning, disinfecting, and maintenance isn’t just about efficiency. It’s about safety too. And as a dental health practitioner, keeping everyone healthy and safe should be your top priority!
You’re a dentist, not a mechanic. However, you do have a few things in common.
Not only do you work with instruments but you both work with various tools and equipment. More importantly, your tools and equipment require maintenance if you’re going to get the most out of them.
Especially when it comes to your dental suction system.
Your e-vac is one of the most important tools in your practice, and preventative maintenance is absolutely essential to extend its lifespan and optimize performance.
Failing to properly maintain your equipment means you won't be able to reap the full benefits of the investment – and in the COVID-19 era, you can’t afford frivolous expenditures.
Worst of all, you won’t be able to provide the best possible care to your dental patients.
So, to avoid these pitfalls mentioned above, read on as we dig into the topic of preventative maintenance for your dental evacuation system.
The Value of Preventative Evacuation System Maintenance
The Average Dental Practice has between 1300 and 1500 patients. That means you need to deliver care with both skill and speed.
With such a busy schedule, it's impossible to maintain your dental evacuation system if you're working on it ad hoc.
Regularly scheduling your maintenance ensures you’re taking care of your equipment because you’ve made the necessary room in your packed calendar. It’s there, etched in stone for you to remember, instead of going by the seat of your pants!
What’s Involved In Day-to-Day E-Vac Maintenance?
Suction pump maintenance should be completed every morning before your first appointment. Here’s what you’ll need to do (in order):
Flush the water lines (with your preferred treatment solution) for at least two minutes.
Fill up the water supply of your self-contained water system or sterilizer.
Be sure to flush the water line for 30 seconds in between each patient
Disinfect and clean the outer surfaces of your dental suction system.
You should also perform the following monthly maintenance tasks on your dental suction system (in order):
Thoroughly clean the sterilizer chamber using the appropriate cleaning solution
Inspect the sterilizer seal, then clean it, and replace, if necessary
Using a mild cleaner, clean your sump pump’s surface, getting rid of disinfectant residue
How About Extended Downtime?
Closing your office for more than four days? Here’s what you need to do to ensure you can get your evacuation system back up and running:
Turn on your suction system if your chair spittoon connects to the vacuum system.
Empty 1-litre of diluted suction pump disinfection solution down the drain, then follow up with clean water (2 litres).
Flip off suction pump switches and, with a solution, clean off encrusted lime or lingering cleaning agents.
Don’t leave your suction filters in cleaning solutions or bleach.
If you’re away from your practice for a while, ensure you or someone else visits once per week to flush your suction pump and remove potential clogs from your suction lines.
Pitfalls of Neglecting Dental Suction Pump Maintenance
Failing to maintain your suction pump will lead to malfunctions, such as a clogged collection canister. This problem leads to a strained pump and weakness in the overall suction.
Moreover, evacuation system maintenance helps to remove aerosols in your practice. During COVID-19, aerosol-reduction is absolutely integral, as it will reduce the chance of viral transmission.
Most importantly, a well-maintained E-Vac system with adequate, consistent suction ensures you offer your patients the best treatments possible, improving your reputation and your practice’s profit margins in turn.