A dental handpiece is a term that is commonly used to refer to a small high-speed drill that is used during dental procedures and especially for the removal of decayed teeth and in the shaping of the structures of individual teeth prior to the insertion of a filling or crown. Further applications include cleaning and shaping of root canals during endodontic treatment as well as the removal of old or temporary crowns prior to the insertion of new or permanent restorations. The term dental handpieces is also colloquially used to describe the power source for one or more such handpieces.

There are different types of dental handpieces with advanced models being smaller and capable of providing the higher precision that is necessary for sensitive dental procedures. These handpieces use rotary instruments such as burs, stones, wheels and discs, all of which have different applications in the field of dental healthcare. There are different modes of powering these handpieces including air-driven, electric, as well as using compressed gas and which is mostly used for surgical handpieces. The most important thing to consider when shopping for a dental handpiece is the application for which it will be used as there are different types that are available for an entire range of dental procedures.

Dental handpieces are classified according to the revolutions per minute (rpm) or speeds at which they operate. In this regard there are two types of handpieces, one type being low-or slow speed, and the other type which is referred to as the high-speed or contra angel. For both types of handpieces the most common mode of operation is through the use of air systems and which serves to operate several components of the handpieces. The air rotates the air turbine or vane driver and which basically means that the air system is these handpieces power source. It is now common to find a dental handpiece to which fiber optic accessories have been attached thus providing the operator of the handpiece with a light source.

High-speed dental handpieces are mostly used in cavity preparations to remove the bulk of enamel, dentin and old metal restorations. They can rotate at up to 400,000 rpm and they generally use hard metal alloys that are commonly referred to as burrs in dental healthcare terminology. These dental burrs come in different shapes and are designed for specific applications. The material of choice in the manufacture of burrs is steel with a tungsten carbide coating or tungsten carbide entirely. A dental handpiece is synonymous with a visit to the dentist as its distinctive shrill is what most people associate dentists with.

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