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Know the Difference Between Fiber Optic and Non- Optic Dental Handpieces


What does understanding the difference between a fiber optic and a non-optic dental handpiece mean for your dental practice? 


It’s simple: Without equipment that complements your skillset, your patients may not receive optimal care. Combining your expert knowledge and fine-tuned hands-on capabilities with the best available dental handpiece will deliver results that make your practice the #1 choice in your community. 


Before investing in performance-boosting dental handpieces, it’s vital to understand their nuances. After all, knowledge is power. 


Informed decisions on dental equipment purchasing will enhance your practice’s reputation while offering a significant return on investment.  


Read on to learn the difference between fiber optic and non-optic handpieces, the advantages of fiber optics, and why some practitioners still opt for a non-optic handpiece.


What Is a Fiber Optic Dental Handpiece?


Dentists use a fiber optic dental handpiece for various procedures. 


The primary advantage of these handpieces is their enhanced visibility during dental procedures. 


Fiber optic handpieces offer this benefit by incorporating light-transmitting optical fibers into the tip of the handpiece, generating a superior view inside the patient’s mouth. This feature is particularly useful in the areas of the mouth where overhead lights struggle to illuminate.  


The fiber optic illumination allows for greater precision, improving patient outcomes.


How Does a Fiber Optic Dental Handpiece Work?


Optical fibers, which provide superior illumination and precision, operate based on the principle of total internal reflection. When light enters the optical fiber at a certain angle, it reflects off its inner walls and becomes trapped, allowing it to travel along the fiber. 


This process allows light to travel through the entire length of the fiber, even if it is coiled or bent.  


Optical fibers are then integrated into the handpiece, running from the base, which connects to the external light source, to the light-emitting tip.  


The key to the construction of the fiber optic dental handpiece is the strategic positioning of the fibers. They ensure that the light illuminates the area where the procedure is focused.  


After emerging from the handpiece tip, the light illuminates the work site within a patient’s mouth. This enhanced visibility is a significant benefit.  


Generally, the emitted light is cool. In other words, it doesn’t overheat the area of focus, bolstering patient comfort during a procedure.  


While a fiber optic dental handpiece has many advantages, it’s not invincible. Like any other equipment, it’s susceptible to wear and tear, fiber degradation, and contamination, which can all decrease the light transmission efficiency.  


Therefore, frequent maintenance is essential, and occasional fiber optic or external light source replacement might be necessary to ensure consistent peak illumination.


What is the Advantage of a Fiber Optic Dental Handpiece?


Here’s a list of advantages you’ll enjoy when using a fiber optic dental handpiece instead of a non-optic dental handpiece:


  • A fiber optic dental handpiece improves visibility, offering direct illumination at the operation site within your patient’s mouth. This lets you see nuances and details you’re likelier to miss when utilizing only overhead lighting. 
  • Enhanced visibility during dental procedures allows for more precision, accuracy, and quality of work. It helps to remove decay and shape teeth more accurately, for example.  
  • The improved lighting of fiber optic dental handpieces enables enhanced diagnostics. You’ll have a valuable tool aiding in early cavity and fracture detection, also helping catch other dental issues in their infancy. 
  • Direct illumination via a fiber optic handpiece yields superior safety during dental procedures. The risk of inflicting damage to adjacent teeth or tissues is minimized. Furthermore, tooth structure over-reduction is reduced.  
  • Improved visibility at the treatment site boosts treatment efficiency. Thus, with a fiber optic handpiece, you can perform treatments more swiftly, reducing the time between patients without compromising the quality of your work.  
  • A fiber optic dental handpiece can be paired with an intraoral camera, illuminating areas of concern you can show the patient. This education and communication can help patients take the necessary steps to improve their oral health. 
  • It is always a net positive to make procedures easier on yourself as a practitioner. This not only prolongs your career but also enhances comfort during procedures. The added light source reduces practitioner eye strain, offsetting vision-related fatigue.

When Might a Dentist Choose a Non-Optic Handpiece Instead?


While the benefits of a fiber optic dental handpiece are numerous, it may not always be the right investment for every dentist. 


For instance, dentists on a tight budget might not have room to invest in such equipment. The upfront costs can be lofty, as can maintenance and repairs resulting from the complexity of the fiber optic system.  


Furthermore, fiber optic systems possess an influx of components–all with the potential to degrade and malfunction over time.  


While embracing progress and new techniques is essential, there’s merit in the adage, ‘If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.’ Many dentists have spent years perfecting their craft with non-optic handpieces and have no reason to switch. 


Also, a fiber optic dental handpiece can cause performance issues for dentists during procedures. The illuminating lights focus on specific areas and help optimally see the immediate work area. However, shadows can be created elsewhere, yielding a contrast that some practitioners find distracting.  


A fiber optic handpiece is typically an upgrade for most dentists. Nonetheless, not all practitioners are the same. Many benefit from doing things their way, suited to their specific skill sets and preferences.  


Yes–we suggest investigating whether a fiber optic upgrade will work for your practice. But that doesn’t mean you should jump in headfirst without being 100% sure it’ll work best for you and your patients.


Is a Fiber Optic Dental Handpiece Best for Your Practice and Patients?


Every equipment investment you make must benefit your practice and your patients. A fiber optic dental handpiece possesses all the features to yield such advantages.  


There are numerous reasons to transition from traditional to fiber optic handpieces, including achieving greater precision and ensuring heightened patient safety. 


That said, these decisions are never simple. Do your research, talk to industry peers, weigh your budget, and investigate whether a fiber optic upgrade will take your practice to the next level. 


Explore our range of Sable fiber optic and non-optic dental handpieces. Have questions? Our experts are here to help. Browse our selection now and reach out for personalized advice on the best fit for your practice.

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