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Slow Speed Handpiece Attachments: Contra Angles & More

Slow Speed Handpiece Attachments: Angles & Grip Heads


The attachment you choose for your slow speed dental handpiece is a key decision.  


There are many types of attachments for different tasks. Choosing the right attachment improves the speed of the procedure, its outcome, and even the comfort of you and your patient. 


Here’s what you need to know about choosing your slow speed handpiece contra angles, straight angles/nosecones, and prophy angles depending on your needs.

  1. Anatomy of a Slow Speed Handpiece 
  2. What are Slow Speed Angles? 
  3. Types of Slow Speed Angles 
  • Contra Angles 
  • Straight Angles 
  • Prophy Angles

1. Anatomy of a Slow Speed Handpiece


Slow speed handpieces are precision tools dental practitioners use to remove cavities, perform restorative work, prepare teeth for crowns, fillings, and veneers, and other orthodontic work.  


In contrast to high speed handpieces, which run at 350,000 to 500,000 RPM, slow speeds run at 20,000 RPM (air driven) and 40,000 RPM (electric). The difference in operating speed means that slow speed handpieces generally have a longer lifespan and require less maintenance and repair than high speeds. 


As with high speed handpieces, slow speed handpieces connect to your dental unit via either a fixed back or quick disconnect connection. However, unlike high speed handpiece connections, slow speeds generally only have two possible tube configurations: 2 holes or 4 holes.  


Many slow speed handpieces are versatile and can be equipped for a variety of procedures and purposes by attaching different angles. These angles extend the use of a slow speed handpiece, allowing you to perform more work efficiently with a single piece of equipment. 


Slow speed handpieces also come with a variety of different chucking mechanisms that determine how the bur is retained and changed. These attachments also change the utility of the handpiece and are one of the most basic decisions you must make when choosing a slow speed handpiece. 


The following sections will explain the different types of slow speed angles and chucking mechanisms to help you make the best decision for your dental practice.


2. What are Slow Speed Angles?


The ‘angle’ of a slow speed handpiece refers to the component that houses the bur and chucking mechanism. The angle attaches to the main body of the slow speed handpiece that the practitioner holds.


3. Types of Slow Speed Angles


While slow speed angle attachments are not standardized the same as handpiece couple configurations, most slow speed angles fall into one of three main categories based on their design and function: 

  • a) Contra angles for intraoral procedures 
  • b) Straight angles for extraoral procedures 
  • c) Prophy angles for hygiene procedures

We will explain the purpose and design of each of these attachments in the following sections.


Slow Speed Contra Angle Attachments


A contra angle refers to a dental handpiece with one or more curves in its design, with the chucking mechanism and bur sitting perpendicular to the contra angle shaft.  


Contra angles make it possible for dentists to reach hard-to-reach parts of the mouth, such as the back of teeth and the molars, in a way that is comfortable for both the practitioner and the patient. They help dentists perform dental work in an efficient and ergonomically correct manner, reducing the need to strain in uncomfortable positions.



Dentists use slow speed contra angles for many intraoral procedures, including:

  • Removing decay 
  • Polishing amalgam restorations 
  • Refining cavity preparation

A contra angle can also be used to trim and contour crowns, dentures, and orthodontic appliances before they are placed on patients. 


Slow speed contra angles are colour-coded near their connection to the handpiece's body at the base. These colours have been adopted by numerous manufacturers to indicate the motor's speed relative to the bur's speed:

  • 1:5 Red: Bur's operating speed is greater than the motor's 
  • 1:1 Blue: Bur and motor operating speeds are the same 
  • 4:1 Green: Bur's operating speed is lower than the motor's

In order to choose the right contra angle for your slow speed handpiece, you need to ensure it is compatible with the handpiece brand and model, as well as the speed and air pressure at which it operates. Contra angle attachments do not have a universal standard, and their specifications vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and model to model. 


To learn more about contra angles for slow speed handpieces, browse our selection of slow speed contra angles compatible with NSK, Midwest, and KaVo components.

Slow Speed Straight Angle Attachments


Slow Speed Handpiece Connections


A straight angle or nosecone refers to a dental handpiece with a straight design.  


In contrast to contra angles, practitioners use nosecones only for procedures performed outside the mouth, such as:

  • Shaping temporary crowns before placement 
  • Relining and trimming removable dentures 
  • Contouring orthodontic appliances

In spite of the fact that nosecones are solely designed for extraoral use, they are still highly valuable attachments that many dental practitioners use on a daily basis. The precision offered by straight attachments enables practitioners to prepare crowns, dentures, and orthodontic appliances efficiently. 


With straight attachments, as with contra angles, you need to ensure that the attachment is compatible with your handpiece’s brand, model, speed, and air pressure. Nosecone attachments vary by manufacturer and the model. 


To learn more about straight angles or nosecones for slow speed handpieces, check out our catalogue of slow speed nosecones compatible with NSK, Midwest, and KaVo components:

Slow Speed Prophy Angle Attachments


A prophy angle is a dental handpiece specifically designed to hold prophy cups or brushes for prophylactic procedures.  


Unlike straight angle and contra angle attachments, which are exclusively made from stainless steel or titanium, prophy angles are available in both reusable stainless steel or disposable plastic models.


Slow Speed Prophy Angle Attachments


Your slow speed prophy angle attachment must be compatible with the brand, model, speed, and air pressure of your slow speed handpiece.


Choose Your Slow Speed Handpiece Attachments Wisely


Whether you’re fighting cavities, shaping dentures of polishing teeth to a pearly shine, your slow speed handpiece is not complete without a high-quality angle attachment! Be sure to carefully review an attachment's features and compatibility with your Canadian dental supplier before ordering. 


Our team is always happy to answer any questions you may have about our slow speed handpieces or dental handpiece replacement parts. Feel free to contact us and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Generic Administrator at 4:33 AM
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High Speed Handpiece Connections: All About Couplers & Chucks

High Speed Handpiece Connections


As a dental practitioner, your high speed handpiece is arguably the most important piece of dental equipment in your operatory.  


But the connective components that complete your high speed handpiece ‒ couplers and chucks ‒ are as important to your practice as the handpiece itself.  


There is a wide variety of high speed handpiece coupler and chuck configurations on the market, and knowing the differences is key for a smooth and efficient practice.  


Here’s what you need to know about high speed handpiece couplers and chucks.


1. What is a Dental Handpiece Coupler? 

2. Types of High Speed Handpiece Couplers 

  • ISO-A or Borden Connection 
  • ISO-B or Midwest Connection 
  • ISO-C or New Style Coupler 
  • Quick Disconnect Coupler 

3. What is a Dental Handpiece Chuck? 

4. Types of Dental Handpiece Chucks 

  • Manual Chuck 
  • Auto Chuck 

5. Choose Your Connections Carefully


1. What is a Dental Handpiece Coupler?


A coupler (also known as a coupling) is an attachment for high speed handpieces that connects it to the dental unit in order to supply air, water, and (optionally) light to the handpiece.  


High speed handpiece couplers do not contain moving parts ‒ they simply connect the handpiece to the dental unit. Couplers do not come into direct contact with a patient at any point during a procedure.  


High speed handpiece couplers are available with different tubing connection configurations. Knowing what back end and coupler your high speed handpiece uses is very important, as this determines whether it will fit the dental unit you currently have.  


We’ll explain more about the types of dental handpiece couplers next.


2. Types of High Speed Handpiece Couplers


The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which issues medical, industrial, and commercial standards worldwide, has established specific standards for three types of high speed handpiece coupler configurations:

  1. ISO-A or Borden Connection 
  2. ISO-B or Midwest Connection 
  3. ISO-C or New Style Connection

Most dental handpieces have a fixed back end that uses one of these three standardized couplers, but there are important exceptions you should know.  


The following sections will cover ISO standardized couplers and quick disconnect couplers.


a) ISO-A or Borden-Type Connection


ISO-A couplers, better known as Borden Connection, come in 2 or 3-hole configurations that connect the high speed handpiece and dental unit. There is a large hole for air intake to drive the turbine and a smaller hole for water to cool the bur. The third smaller hole is for water atomizing.


ISO-A couplers


Handpieces with a Borden connection do not have an air exhaust port, so the air blows directly out of the handpiece, which makes the handpiece much louder than other types. 


Borden connections are most widely used in Latin America and Europe. These handpieces are not commonly used by Canadians or Americans in dentistry today.


b) ISO-B or Midwest Connection


ISO-B connection, better known as Midwest connection, come in 4 or 5-hole configurations. In most cases, Midwest couplers have at least 4 holes, which are used for:

  1. Air intake to drive the turbine 
  2. Air exhaust, which reduces noise from the handpiece  
  3. Water spray to cool the bur 
  4. Chip air, which mixes with the water spray to create a “mist”

ISO-B connection


A fiber optic lighting connection can be made through the optional fifth hole. In order to meet ISO standards, 4-hole Midwest couplers include a "dimple" in place of the 5th hole. 


Midwest connection are the most popular of the three types of dental handpiece couplers used by dental practitioners in the United States and Canada.


c) ISO-C or New Style Coupler


ISO-C couplers, often referred to as “new style” couplers, function similarly to ISO-B or Midwest couplers. Like the Midwest models, ISO-C couplers have holes for:

  1. Air intake 
  2. Air exhaust 
  3. Water spray 
  4. Chip air 
  5. Fiber optics (optional)

ISO-C couplers


However, new style couplers include a 6-pin handpiece or lamp module connection set in the same position as the 5th hole on an ISO-B or Midwest coupler.  


ISO-C is the newest standard for handpiece couplers and most new dental units comply with it. While ISO-B couplers still remain the most popular, more and more manufacturers are starting to use six pins in their dental handpieces. It is also possible to attach an ISO-C coupler to an older 4-hole ISO-B handpiece.


d) Quick Disconnect Coupler (like KaVo MultiFLEX)


Today, many handpieces feature a quick disconnect back end instead of a fixed one.  


Handpieces with quick disconnects allow for quick and easy removal from the dental unit to boost your efficiency, such as KaVo’s MultiFLEX and Sable Industries’ Highspeed handpieces.


Quick Disconnect Coupler


However, quick disconnect back ends are not ISO standardized. Since most manufacturers use proprietary back ends, you can generally only use a quick disconnect handpiece with a quick disconnect coupler from the same manufacturer.  


Sable Industries is one of few Canadian dental suppliers to offer KaVo MultiFLEX compatible 4, 5, and 6-hole replacement couplers.


3. What is a Dental Handpiece Chuck?


The chucking mechanism, also called a chuck or collet, is the component at the head of the handpiece that holds its bur in place. The bur is the cutting tool that spins with the turbine to cut or carve teeth.


4. Types of Dental Handpiece Chucks


There are two basic types of chucking mechanisms: manual chucks (also called standard or wrench chucks) and auto chucks (also called push button chucks).


Manual Chuck 

A manual chuck or wrench chuck opens and closes as you push it back and forth. The bur is threaded into place and tightened with a specialized bur wrench, which is also used to loosen and remove the bur.  


Manual chucks are generally less expensive and easier to repair than auto chucks, but changing burs is more time consuming and difficult than it is with an auto chuck.


Auto or Push Button Chuck 


An auto chuck or push button chuck is spring-loaded, opening and closing at ease with the push of a small button. With proper use and maintenance, high-quality auto chucks hold the bur just as securely and reliably as a manual chuck. 


Auto chucks are more convenient and thus much more popular than manual chucks. However, repairing the auto chuck is difficult and usually requires replacing the chuck and spindle entirely. Be sure that your repair technician uses only FDA and Health Canada approved dental handpiece repair parts.


Choose Your High Speed Handpiece Connections Wisely


The coupler and chuck are two connective components that complete your high speed handpiece. Consider their features and compatibility carefully before you make your next order from your Canadian dental supplier. 


Our team is always happy to answer any questions you may have about our high speed handpieces or dental handpiece replacement parts. Feel free to contact us and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

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