How to choose a dental Handpiece

  • Dec 4 2017

How to Choose a Dental Handpiece
It is no secret that low-speed and high-speed dental handpieces are considered an essential tool in your practice. Over the years, there have been some amazing advances in handpiece technology, specifically the introduction of the electric handpiece and the improvements in procedures it has enabled dentists to perform. Specifically, tooth preparations are more precise and are completed with less noise and vibration, benefitting both the dentist and patient.

We have put together this Buyers’ Guide to help you better understand the many options available in the marketplace today, as the choice is far greater now than it has ever been before.

When it comes to purchasing your next handpiece, here are 12 features we believe you need to consider.

Head size
It is important to consider both the height and the diameter of the handpiece head. The general consensus is that the smaller the head, the greater the visibility combined with improved ease of access. The compromise with a smaller head is that handpiece torque is reduced and tooth preparation time is increased.

Speed & Torque
Torque and Speed are constant companions. Torque is the power that ideally you want to be consistent in order to maintain the speed of the bur when you are cutting teeth and dental materials. The torque that a handpiece delivers can dramatically reduce treatment time and improve treatment comfort for the clinician and the patient alike. 

Treatment Procedure



Air-driven Handpieces

Electric Handpieces

Cavity prep

Crown prep

Sectioning existing prosthetics

High Speed

Air turbine

Electric motor with 1:5 Contra-angle


Adjusting ceramics

Refining prep

Removing caries

Slow Speed

Air motor with 1:1 contra-angle

Electric motor with:

1:1 Contra-angle

Or 1:1 Straight handpiece

endodontics and pin placement

Ultra-low speed

Air motor with 10:1 and 16:1 contra-angle

Electric motor with

10:1 and 16:1 Contra-angle

Noise level
Choosing a handpiece that operates at the lowest decibel level has two important benefits - it can minimise a patient’s fear and anxiety during any procedure whilst also protecting and preserving the hearing of the clinican. A typical high-speed, air-turbine handpiece has a noise output of between 70 and 80 decibels. This contrasts with a typical electric dental handpiece which has a noise output of 55 to 60 decibels of noise.

When considering the weight of a handpiece, it is important to consider the weight of the handpiece plus the coupling or motor and the tubing as well as the balance of the weight in the hand. The weight and balance of the handpiece in the hand has a significant impact on minimising repetitive stress injuries within the muscles and nerves, with hands and forearms particularly vulnerable. A handpiece that best fits a petite woman may not be optimal for a man who can hold a rugby ball in one hand. 

Traditionally, slow-speed handpieces have weighed at least twice as much as high-speed handpieces. Today, manufacturers have reduced the weight of slow speed handpieces so that clinicians can work with slow speeds just like they would if using an air turbine.

Be sure that the handpiece you are considering has a satisfactory number of air and water spray ports to provide for rapid and even cooling of the operative field, removal of debris and to ensure a clean and hygienic treatment area.

Many dental handpieces today are available with excellent LED optics that deliver daylight-quality light directly to the treatment site, enabling more precise work for restoration and prosthetic procedure. Look for a light source that is easy to switch on and off.

Bearing quality
It’s important to know what type of bearing the handpiece has in the turbine, as ceramic bearings are more resistant to wear than stainless-steel bearings. A worn or damaged bearing causesbur ‘chatter’ or ‘wobble’ as a result of the bur not cutting concentrically; caused by bearing wear and tear, it is uncomfortable for the patient and the clinician alike. Reducing bur chatter results in a truer, more definite cutting instrument, which allows you to routinely produce more precise margins, faster and with much less effort. In addition, the bur is in contact with the tooth for a shorter time, which means that less heat is produced, which leads to less sensitivity and improved bur lifespan. The result is a tooth preparation that has smoother walls and more precise margins - in less time and with less stress for the dentist and patient. Your patients will love spending less time in the chair, and you will benefit by fitting more patient treatments into your day.

When considering an air-driven handpiece, it’s important to know if it is compatible with your existing coupling or hose system. The benefits of a quick disconnect saves valuable chairside and assistant time by enabling efficient replacements between patients. This will make your chair time more efficient. Chances are that the current handpiece you are using has similar features to what you are looking for in your next purchase.

Warranties are an important insurance policy against any unexpected events or mishaps that happen with your handpiece. Make sure you consider the length of the warranty included. Usually, the warranty period is 1 year for a handpiece, but there are longer warranties available. Ask about the fine print and what is covered under the warranty. Does it include parts and labor? Is free shipping included?

Effective regular lubrication significantly increases your handpiece’s service life. Not all lubrication procedures are equally simple. You should be able to select a handpiece with a straightforward lubrication process which allows you to follow clear instructions regularly and easily.

The average handpiece cycles through the sterilizer 1,000 times per year. Never exceed the maximum recommended autoclave temperature that the handpiece components are designed to tolerate. If autoclave guidelines are followed correctly, a quality-manufactured handpiece will continue to function without noticeable decrease of power or efficiency through repeated sterilizations. Infection control standards require the use of a class B autoclave to sterilize handpieces, while class S autoclave are only suitable for plain instruments.

Make sure you take every opportunity to test how a dental handpiece feels in your hand. Don’t forget to test the grip while wearing the gloves that you might use during procedures.

How much can I afford to spend? How much am I prepared to spend?

In addition to the cost of a handpiece;

1)     Do I need couplings?

2)     If switching to electric you will need to invest in the control unit and the micro-motor and consider if the system can be fully-integrated in your current dental unit or would a control pad on the doctor’s  table or a table top unit be adequate?

Don’t rely solely on printed literature, websites or videos before making your purchase decision. It’s vitally important to get a feel for the handpiece first.

·       Dental conventions are a great place to try multiple handpieces from different companies all in one location.

·       evaluate a handpiece in your office - where it will ultimately be used

·       Ask a  colleague

Are you ready to view all your options?
GUNZ DENTAL HAS A SOLUTION FOR YOU! No need to worry about your current handpiece connection, we offer high-speed handpieces for your current coupling systems*, and slow-speed handpieces suitable for your current setup. Visit our online store where you can view our entire line of electric micro-motors, electric handpieces, air-driven high-speeds, straight handpieces, surgical motors and handpieces. Also, your Gunz Dental representative will be happy to discuss your handpiece needs and answer any questions you may have.

Click Here To View Our Handpiece Specials