Electric handpieces changed the dental game forever. They have torque that can never be matched, head sizes much smaller than their counterparts, and the entire handpiece itself is much smaller in general. However, there are definitely some negatives to them as well. They are more pricey than you would normally pay, heavier than what you may be used to, and more expensive to repair as there a tons of moving parts that go into the operation of these handpieces (just look at the first picture). Now with that many moving parts, it makes sense why these things weigh a little bit heavier. It is also understandable how the handpieces themselves may cost more. Now, if you are willing to pay the price (literally) to get these throughout your office, you are likely to be very happy. The higher repair cost is offset by the lower repair frequency, and the handpieces themselves will last forever if properly maintained.
From my perspective, they are a blast to repair, and I thoroughly enjoy it as part of my job. I have repaired over 5,000, so I know all of the ins-and-outs, all of the special tips and tricks, and most importantly; I know which are likely to break sooner than others, and why that is. Now I will never use these like you do, our jobs are completely different. I am just here to make them work better than ever for you. With that being said, these are my opinions; you may absolutely love the handpiece you have, and I am not going to argue with you. I am simply here to tell you what breaks, why, and what to keep an eye out for. I am not paid by any of these companies to push their products. I am paid by dentists, and what better way to help out then give you a deep dive review of electric handpiece that you know and love?
Overview: NSK has created, basically, the staple of the electric 1:5 handpiece. All of the aftermarket handpieces around now days are almost an exact replica of the NSK Ti-Max 95l’s. I mean, even Star’s electric handpieces are identical to the NSK’s. To me, this is a good thing; if you created something that people are copying, you must have done something right. Recently, they have updated their popular Ti-Max model to give it a little smaller head, make it a little lighter, while providing the same amount of torque. Even their older models are still top quality handpieces that you can rely on. If worse comes to worse, you can replace everything internally in the handpiece for my Level 3 Overhaul price, and you basically have a brand new handpiece; much cheaper than what it would be to buy a brand new one. Just like in their pneumatic models, the back cap comes with a small bearing attached, to avoid the consequences of a back cap and spindle touching (lots of scalding heat). Now lately, they haven’t changed a whole lot when it comes to design until very recently. If it isn’t broken, there’s no need to fix it, right? Their newest model, the NSK Ti-Max Z95L has a bit of a change, as mentioned above, but it is still just as reliable as ol’ trusty.
Most Common Repair: These handpiece feature the classic 4mm X 7mm X 2mm head bearings, which is used by W&H, KaVo, and Bien air (all with a slight variant involved). Their intermediate drive shaft bearing is the same size bearing that fits on a Midwest shorty drive plate as well! It seems like they took what worked, and used that in their design. the head bearings are some of the most reliable out there, but every year or two, the bearing cage will eventually wear down and break; for no other reason than just being used. I do notice that their intermediate drive shaft bearings break a little more often than some other brands, but it is really nothing crazy. Maybe over the time of 10 years, they will break an extra 2 times. The chuck is also solid, and rarely needs replaced because it is not holding the bur. Actually, more often than not the chuck gets replaced because the head bearings lose a ball, and the Dr. continues running it which inevitably grinds the gears away to nothing. The most common complaint and corresponding repair I get is a complaint with heat. As the bearings wear down and get a little lose, the intermediate drive shaft headgear causes extra friction on the geared spindle, which more friction = more heat. The repair for that is just a normal Level 1 Overhaul, and lasts for about 18 months until I see them in again.
Technical Information: These are the most common NSK’s that I see in the repair facility. If you have something along the lines of the ForZa, it is the same as the x95L. If your letters are different, the schematics are still almost identical.
W&H- The Synea model handpiece from W&H are exceptional handpieces. They have a problem like NSK with their water lines, but like I said, take care of them and you won’t. These handpieces seem to be very quiet and smooth. The bur is more likely to wiggle a bit more than other handpieces, but if you can handle that, then it shouldn’t be a problem for you. Great handpieces with minimal problems.
KaVo- KaVo has many different options available for purchase. They seem to be researching and developing new things, some work, some don’t. They recently released a “COMFORTdrive” which is an electric motor and attachment all in 1. I have to say, I have only worked with one client on these, and he did not like them. You can draw you own conclusion, but there were definitely problems that he had. The other KaVo’s that I have worked on have been exceptional. They run forever, they’re quiet and smooth. Their water never seems to leak, and they don’t get hot. It is a shame that the comfortdrive was problematic, they would have really had something there. Maybe it was just the maintenance routine being used? could be. One thing about the comfortdrive is that they are extremely quiet.
Bien Air- Bien Air electrics, are top notch. Their design seems to be perfected, and the handpieces rarely breaking down. They always work, and work for a long time. They aren’t the most quiet, but they are the most durable. I have had repairs just for a routine maintenance check up where I found destroyed bearings. The dentist wasn’t even complaining, and didn’t even know there was a problem.
Some aftermarket handpieces like Forza and Apollo seem to replicate NSK and other handpieces exactly. They are cheaper and aftermarket so you do get what you pay for. This is a good way to do it if you are looking for something a little bit cheaper and aren’t concerned about name brands.
1. Bien Air 2. W&H 3. KaVo 4. NSK
What do you think? agree or disagree? comment below, I would love to chat.
Looking for any other handpiece reviews? stay updated with my blog. My recent post reviews the pneumatic highspeeds.