Monday, December 01, 2008

When choosing a low speed handpiece, what considerations to the hand of the dental professional should be made?

There are tools of various trades that are pretty much one size fits all. That isn’t the case when it comes to low speed handpieces. There are a few factors that should be considered before purchase. The first is the size of the dental professional’s hand. For the safety and comfort of the dentist, professionals with smaller hands should try to only use the smaller low speed handpieces, while those with larger, more muscular hands will be fine with the heavier options. While the size of the tools might not seem important, over time, nerve, stress, and muscle injuries can occur if the low speed handpiece isn’t fitted properly to the dental professional. Manufacturers are working to lessen the weight of the motors on these tools, but in the meantime, it’s a good idea to be aware of the potential problem and choose wisely to avoid it.
What kind of weight statistics can you expect to find with the common low speed handpieces? Unlike high speed handpieces, the average low speed handpiece usually weighs about 6 ounces. High speed versions are typically only about 3 ounces. The difference doesn’t sound like a lot until you consider the idea of hand, finger, and forearm strain. Fortunately, it is a little better than it used to be. Low speed handpieces of generations’ past sometimes weighed up to half a pound.
Along with trying to keep the weight of the low speed handpieces down, makers are also working towards better designs that provide healthier balance when in use. If you are able to physically try out a low speed handpiece before you purchase, be sure to attach the hose to the back for a real feel of how the handpiece will feel to you.
What is the advantage in a larger, wider low speed handpiece design?
It would stand to reason that a larger or wider design would translate to more strain on the hands and arms. In the case of a low speed handpiece that actually isn’t the case. Many manufacturers have moved to a design that features a much wider posterior casing. This feature helps to provide better balance to the tool and greater comfort to the dental professional. With improved balance comes the ability to relax the hand’s hold on the instrument and encourages less physical strain.
Another design change meant to reduce the strain to the fingers, hands, and forearms is textured or etched handles. With friction no longer a problem, the dental professional can relax their grip and give those overworked muscles a break.
Are there any other factors to be on the look out for when it comes to the performance of a low speed handpiece?
Yes. Always be sure to change the tubing or hoses of the low speed handpiece at the first sign of discoloration or rigidity. Doing so will promote complete function and cleanliness of the entire system.

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