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history of dental handpieces

by:Golden Promise     2024-05-10

The Evolutionary History of Dental Handpieces

Dental handpieces are essential tools for any dentist, and their importance has only grown with time. These precision instruments come in various shapes, sizes, and colors, but their primary function involves drilling through the toughest of dental materials with ease. In this article, we will explore the evolving history of dental handpieces and how they have become such pivotal tools in modern-day dentistry.

Early Developments in Dental Handpieces

The earliest versions of dental handpieces involved a bland hand-cranked drill that rotated at a slow speed, and the dentist would force it against the tooth. It required significant skill and experience to use these early handpieces, and patient comfort was not a top priority. These hand-cranked devices gave way to electric handpieces, which were still in their infancy at the beginning of the 20th century. The electric handpiece running on dc (direct current) and was still very limited in its use because its power output was less than a horsefly.

Development of Air Turbine Dental Handpieces

Credit should be given to the U.S. Army Dental Corps, which is responsible for developing and patenting the first air turbine dental handpiece in the early 1950s. The new tool was sharper and faster than the electric handpiece and worked by using compressed air to power the rotating blade. This development opened the door to greater dental precision and speed, and patient comfort was no longer at risk. They were designed to increase revolution speed and reduce the size of the bur, leading to more precise and precise preparations.

Air-driven dental handpieces became the norm through to the 1970s, providing faster preparation times and minimizing the heat generated. They would also spark the development of dental turbines running at higher speeds which allowed for more precise work on composites and people of different tooth sizes and sensitivity levels. This factor plus the reduction in noise found in the air turbine was seriously beneficial.

Electric Dental Handpieces

Despite the developments in air-driven dental handpieces, their power was still limited to the compressed air available to them. However, advancements in engineering and technology meant that electric dental handpieces were getting better, and their power output began to surpass the air-driven handpiece. An electric handpiece has a motor, which is the heart of the drill. The motor can reach high speeds that reduce the time needed to prepare teeth. The design also meant that electric handpieces were quieter. The development of electric handpieces ushered in a new era of precision and speed in dentistry.

Cordless Handpieces

Dental handpieces have continued to evolve, and one of the most significant advancements in recent times has been the development of cordless handpieces. Several dental handpiece manufacturers have developed battery-operated handpieces, allowing dentists to work without the constraints of cords and wires. Cordless handpieces offer the same level of precision and speed as their corded counterparts but with more maneuverability and ease of use. The introduction of cordless handpieces means greater convenience and comfort for both the dentist and the patient.


In summary, the evolution of dental handpieces has been a long and complicated process. Advancements in technology, engineering, and design have led to the development of increasingly sophisticated tools for dental professionals. From the crude hand-cranked drill to the latest cordless handpiece, the dental tools have come a long way. Dental handpieces play a critical role in modern-day dentistry, providing faster preparation times, greater precision, and increased comfort for the patient. The future of dental handpieces looks bright, and we can expect to see even more advancements in the years to come.

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