Dental Corner: Properly equip your dental suite - Veterinary Medicine
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Dental Corner: Properly equip your dental suite


High-speed handpiece or drill with burs

Figure 9. The components of an air-driven unit include (from left to right) a low-speed handpiece that can be used with a prophylaxis angle and cup for polishing teeth, an ultrasonic scaler (piezoelectric) that has been incorporated into this system, a high-speed handpiece for sectioning teeth and removing bone, and an air-water syringe for rinsing.
A high-speed handpiece or drill and a low-speed handpiece are both powered by air (Figure 9). The air source is either a compressor or nitrogen. Air pressure drives a small turbine in the high-speed handpiece, generating low torque but high speeds (200,000 to 400,000 rpm), thus driving the bur or bit. Burs for high-speed units are called friction grip burs and are designated by FG. When buying burs, do not confuse FG with RA (right angle) or HP (handpiece) burs because these will not fit the high-speed handpiece.

During extractions, burs are used to section teeth into individual root components and to remove the buccal cortical bone plate, making root elevation much easier. Burs are made of carbide and are either end-cutting or side-cutting. End-cutting burs, which are useful in removing bone, are either round (denoted by #1/4 through #8) or pear-shaped (#329 through #332). Side-cutting burs are useful for sectioning teeth and come in a number of styles. The most popular is the crosscut tapered fissure (denoted by #699 through #703). Although often used multiple times, carbide burs are designed for single use and are priced accordingly. Extended use leads to a dull, inefficient bur.

Water coolant should always be used to reduce thermal damage. It should also be noted that electric-driven handpieces are often marketed to veterinarians for the same use. These handpieces can be dangerous since too much torque is generated, which can lead to iatrogenic injury to the patient.


Some of the most commonly performed dental procedures in a veterinary practice are periodontal prophylaxis and dental extraction. When you have the right tools at hand, as described in this article, you can provide optimal dental care for all your patients.

Editors' note: Dr. Lemmons is a consultant for Veterinary Information Network. Dr. Carmichael has been a consultant for Pfizer, Henry Schein, Merial, and Webster.

The information and photographs for "Dental Corner" were provided by Matthew Lemmons, DVM, Circle City Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Hospital, 9650 Mayflower Park Drive, Carmel, IN 46032, and Daniel T. Carmichael, DVM, DAVDC, Veterinary Medical Center, 75 Sunrise Highway, West Islip, NY 11795.


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