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Knowing the Differences Between High Speed and Slow Speed Handpieces


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
  • Head size
  • Light source
  • Piece weight
  • Motor noise

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:

  • Cavity removal
  • Preparing teeth for crowns, fillings, or veneers
  • Orthodontic procedures
  • Restorative work

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.
Surgical handpiece – 45 degree
  • Surgical air-driven handpieces keep oral surgeries safe
  • They possess grated vents that stop air from spraying into a patient’s oral cavity during a procedure.
Endodontic handpiece
  • 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 handpiece
  • 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:

  • Handpiece weight
  • How the instrument is balanced
  • Head size
  • Durability

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.

at 11:23 AM
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