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Handpieces are the high-speed tools used to drill, clean, or treat tooth decay. They are one of the most used tools in dentistry, and a staple in every dentist’s toolkit. Making a well-informed decision is essential when choosing a dental handpiece for your practice. We’ve assembled this guide to choosing a dental handpiece to help you know what to look for.

Investing in a high-quality handpiece will ensure years of good service, increase productivity, and reduce costs. Browse MediDent Supplies regulatory compliant, high quality, competitively-priced handpieces here.

For more tips on tools for oral surgery, see 3 New Essential Tools for Dental Implant Surgery.

Considerations for choosing a dental handpiece

Before choosing a handpiece, it’s important to define the set of criteria you will consider. Using the following set of features to consider will expedite the selection process. To ensure that your new handpiece is FDA-cleared, visit the CDC’s page on Dental Handpieces and Other Devices Attached to Air and Waterlines.

Type of Propulsion

There are two types of propulsion for dental handpieces.

  1. Air-Driven

Air-driven handpieces have been available for decades. They are well-researched and usually easy to service. Built with micro-air motors that can rotate at speeds up to 400,000 RPM, they can be used for both high and low-speed procedures. Air driven handpieces are typically lighter and have superior cutting precision due to stronger torque. One thing to be mindful of is the potential air-driven handpieces have for overheating, and the loud noise often produced by the motor.

  1. Electric Propulsion

Electrical handpieces have electric motors which can reach a speed of up to 200,000 RPM, slightly slower than air-driven motors. Electric motors provide a consistent torque that does not decrease with increased resistance. The fixed speed can produce a smoother, faster cutting experience. Patients often prefer electric handpieces because they are much quieter and produce less vibrations to the teeth. Most electric motor systems come with an LED light. However, electric handpieces are usually slightly heavier than their air-driven counterparts, which could result in fatigue.


  1. Low-Speed

Low-speed handpieces are usually used for more invasive work like the removal of cavities or preparing the tooth for new crowns or fillings. They usually last longer than high-speed handpieces because the slower speed uses less power. While low-speed handpieces are most often used for orthodontic or restorative work, they can also be used for endodontic or implant surgeries.

  1. High-Speed

High-speed handpieces (usually air-driven) are best for precision and restoration treatments. It’s important to make sure that a high-speed handpiece comes equipped with an effective water cooling system, as they tend to heat up more quickly. Some high-speed handpieces have illumination included which can allow for greater precision for cutting.


Adequate lighting is a crucial part of any dental treatment. Handpieces that include a light source are preferred for vision and ease of use. Since their development in 2007, many handpieces now include LED lighting, which are quickly replacing the older halogen lights that used to be found in dental equipment. LED lights last up to 10 times longer than halogen lights, and give off less heat, providing a more comfortable and reliable experience for the patient.


The size of the handpiece head will determine which types of procedures can be performed. Smaller handpiece heads typically provide better visibility for operative procedures.

Because the connection to the tip of the handpiece is unique, it is possible that dental burs from other operative instruments may not be compatible, so don’t forget to check the compatibility of your existing tools before selecting a handpiece.

Service & Maintenance

Handpieces always come with detailed instructions on proper care and maintenance. Be sure to look them over carefully, as they may vary from brand to brand. All parts of the handpiece must be sterilized after each use, so it is important that handpieces have the ability to come apart easily between procedures, so time is not wasted on the cleaning process.

For more information, see the CDC’s Statement on Reprocessing Dental Handpieces.

Good customer care is extremely valuable for a long-term investment like a dental handpiece. At MediDent Supplies, we make sure our customers receive timely, informed customer service. Speak to a friendly MediDent supplies representative today to learn more about our products.

MediDent Supplies recommends

Don’t have time to sort through hundreds of options? Here’s a quick guide to some of our most popular handpieces.

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The P9L Ultrasonic Scaler (PiezoArt P9) is compact, saving precious procedure room space. The unit features a simple, reliable, and accurate power regulator. The unit boasts procedure automatic detection and includes a detachable, autoclavable, ergonomic, aluminum alloy handpiece that will not crack.

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A high quality, modern, durable control box, with a deluxe high-torque 0-35,000 RPM lab handpiece. The set comes with a variable speed foot pedal which allows full, hands-free speed adjustment.

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The Vector Lil’ Beaver 2.0 Ultrasonic Scaler is designed for use in periodontia treatments and other areas of operative dentistry. This unit operates with a fine warm water spray that requires little physical exertion. Includes all aluminum housing for improved durability. The LED-lit digital power adjustment provides precise power control while giving the operator a power display readout.