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How to choose a good handpieces

Author:Jacky   Post time:2011-07-30

Choosing your dental handpieces

Whether you are newly qualified or have been practising dentistry for decades, when you come to choose your dental handpieces, it can seem like there is a bewildering array to choose from.  As your new or replacement handpieces will be a significant investment, it’s important to choose them carefully, to ensure you obtain a good professional set of tools, which will enhance your natural abilities and help you to achieve perfect treatment results.  You will also want them to be in good working order for as long as possible!

Things to consider when selecting your handpieces are:

  1. Which applications will you use the handpiece(s) for?
  2. What equipment is already available in the surgery?
  3. What decontamination facilities are available?
  4. Who will service/repair your handpieces?

It is very important to use the right handpiece for the job.  There are two basic categories of dental handpiece used in daily practice – the dental turbines that fit onto the air hose, sometimes referred to as ‘high speed’, and the contra-angle and straight handpieces that are powered by air motors or electric motors, which you may hear described as ‘low speed’ or ‘slow speed’.  In the UK, most dentists will use both types of handpiece. 

One of the biggest changes to the turbine market in recent years was the introduction of LED light.  W&H was the first company to develop this technology, within its Synea range.  In 2010, they have modified this to create their Synea LED+ range, in which the light source is even closer to the head of the instrument, and with a Colour Rendering Index of 90 (the highest currently available), which shows colours within the mouth in a supremely natural way.

‘Low speed’ handpieces are available with a range of gear ratios – speed reducing, 1:1, or speed increasing.  Speed increasing handpieces (e.g. the 1:5 ratio Synea WA-99 LT) may achieve the same cutting speeds as a dental turbine when used on an electric motor – so they’re not really ‘slow’ at all!  Whether the surgery has air motors or electric motors will affect your ‘low speed’ choices, as the types of motor have different maximum speeds. Note that you don’t have to run your handpieces at maximum motor speed all the time – for example, if your patients are constantly being splattered with prophy paste, try running the handpiece on a lower speed!   

One major consideration when purchasing handpieces is whether the unit in your surgery has optics or not.  If it does then you can buy optic handpieces, such as the W&H Synea range, with the latest LED light technology.  But now a new innovation from W&H means that you can use optics even if your unit doesn’t have optics itself – W&H Alegra handpieces come with self-generated LED+, for the ultimate in flexibility.  If the unit has couplings for another major manufacturer, you can still use Alegra with LED+, as it is available with a range of different connection options.


Infection control is a very important consideration for any dental professional.  So one thing you need to think about is how your instruments will be decontaminated.  The method of decontamination (e.g. whether you have access to a thermo washer disinfector, how quick your sterilization cycle is, whether you have local decontamination facilities or send them to a central sterilization services unit) may affect which handpieces you buy, and how many you need.  Check the handpieces for symbols to show that they can be processed in thermo washer disinfectors and sterilizers.  All current W&H turbines, contra-angles and straight handpieces are thermo washer disinfectable and sterilizable, and come with a data matrix code as standard for traceability.

Next, in order to maintain your handpieces in first class working order, you must pay attention to the routine maintenance instructions from the manufacturer – particularly with regard to lubrication.  You can either use a special oil can with the correct nozzle, or you can use an automated system such as the W&H Assistina.  Once you realise that your dental turbine may have a free-running speed in excess of 350,000 rpm (and that it is the fastest thing you will ever hold in your hand!), you will appreciate how important it is to look after your instruments.  In addition, it is advisable to have your instruments checked and serviced regularly – just as you would a car.  There are several reputable service and repair companies to choose between.  At W&H (UK) we have our own team of factory-trained technicians, who are experts in service and repair of W&H instruments; we also have a membership scheme, W&H Xtra, which enables users of W&H equipment to get guaranteed discount on their service and repairs.  We also award some repair houses our ‘W&H Technical Premium Service’ accreditation – these companies will use genuine spare parts and tooling, to ensure the best quality maintenance of your instruments.

Finally, if you are unsure about which handpieces to buy, please don’t be afraid to ask your dental supplier or the manufacturer for advice. We want you to be satisfied with your choice, and are always happy to give you the information you require to make an informed decision.