- 1957: S.S. White Company introduced the Borden Airotor, the first successful air-driven handpiece. This instrument is regarded as the precursor to the present generation of high-speed handpieces .
- 1992: ADA/FDA issued guidelines mandating routine handpiece autoclave sterilization after every instance of use on a patient. This dramatically changed the durability of handpieces and therefore the costs of maintenance .
- The typical expected longevity of air-driven high-speed handpieces is 500 cycles of sterilization .
- One year: In a typical office workflow a handpiece will undergo about two cycles of sterilization each day; thus 500 cycles of sterilization take about a year .
- Seventy-six percent of dentists use air turbine handpieces; 16 percent of dentists use electric and 8 percent use both .
- The typical noise level of a high-speed air-driven handpiece is 70 – 80 dB; the typical noise level of an electric handpiece is 55-60 dB. Every 10 decibel level of noise reduction is perceived by humans as a 50 percent reduction in noise .
- The typical speed of the bur on the air-driven handpiece is 300-400k rpm; 10-18 watts is the typical cutting power of air-driven handpieces; 200k rpm is the typical speed of the bur on an electric handpiece; 50 – 60 watts is the typical cutting power of an electric handpiece.
- The typical recommended air pressure for air-driven handpieces is 35 psi; more pressure does not mean better cutting or better torque, it just spoils the turbines.
- The turbine is the heart and soul of the air-driven handpiece. This is the component that most often fails.
Three steps: Lube; clean; dry. Wipe the surface of the handpiece and then use an automatic lubrication station to lube and flush the handpiece, then autoclave the handpiece by placing it in a paper/plastic combination bag, paper side up. Allow for the sterilizer to completely process through the dry cycle. These steps will ensure the best and most consistent performance from your handpiece.
 Leonard, Daniel L., and David G. Charlton. "Performance of high-speed dental handpieces subjected to simulated clinical use and sterilization." The Journal of the American Dental Association 130.9 1999: 1301 – 1311.
Vivek Mehta DMD, FAGD, Visiting Faculty, Spear Education. Follow him on Twitter @Mehta_DMD.