Technical Differences Between Air-Driven And Electric Handpieces

Posted on: June 7, 2018

What are the technical differences between air-driven and electric handpieces?


Bur speed avg. 400K-420K RPMs = 14-18 watts of cutting power

Bur will slow down and stop with applied pressure resulting in the need to “feather” prep

Air turbines allow for less bur concentricity

Susceptible to “chatter” during procedure

They are loud and create unpleasant high-pitched noise

Lightweight (however hand and wrist fatigue exist with use)


Bur speed is variable from 84-200,000 RPM = up to 60 watts of cutting power

Bur will not slow down and stop with applied pressure; it maintains constant torque

Greater speed range creates opportunity to use attachments designed for specific parts of a procedure such as endo or implants

Electric handpieces offer greater concentricity at the bur

Little opportunity for “chatter” = cleaner and more precise cut

Electric handpieces offer smoother and quieter operation

Overall noise is reduced, but not silent

Electric handpieces and motor are heavier than air-driven

Advantages and benefits of electric handpieces versus air-driven

No need to “feather” prep. More torque = more cutting power

Less opportunity for pulp damage. Faster cutting = less heat build-up at prep

Precise margins because of greater control in cutting prep

Cleaner, smoother margins. Smoother running = “milling versus chopping”

For patient and doctor, less noise and motion trauma, and less hand fatigue. Less vibration = quieter operation. No “ditching.” Better concentricity eliminates “chatter”

Improved preps and outcomes. Precise applications, more attachment choices, greater speed ranges

Disadvantages of electric

Increased acquisition cost. More expensive than air-driven

Slight learning curve - must modify approach to cutting; no need to “feather.” Get accustomed to greater torque and cutting power. More attachment choices - must choose the right contra-angle for the technique/application