The evolution of dental rotors in time is tightly related to the history of the dental drill as an instrument. There are so many dental accessories at the moment, that it’s hard to imagine that once, there were only a few options when it came to good dental equipment. So, we decided to present you a short history of the evolution of dental instruments in general and dental rotors in particular.
In order to understand how we got to the modern dental parts of the dental equipment, you have to know that scientists found evidence of dentistry being practised in the Indus Valley Civilization as far back as 7000 BC. At the time, the first dentists were trying to cure tooth related disorders with bow drills operated, perhaps, by skilled bead craftsmen. It might not have been the most pleasant experience for the patients, but it was a wonderful invention for that time, as the reconstruction of this ancient form of dentistry demonstrated that the methods used were compelling. Archaeologists found cavities of 3.5 mm depth with concentric groovings, that indicate the use of a drill tool.
The age of those teeth has been estimated at 9000 years – that’s how old the first dental equipment was. In later times, people started using mechanical hand drills. Just as most hand drills, they were kind of slow, with speeds of up to 15 rpm, but they were the first type of dental drill that served as a base for later improvements. In 1864, a clockwork dental drill named Erado was invented by the British dentist George Fellows Harrington.
The invention of George Fellows Harrington was much faster than earlier drills, but with a clear problem – the noise. A few dentists started their work on the In 1868, American dentist George F. Green came up with a pneumatic dental drill powered with pedal-operated bellows. James B. Morrison devised a pedal-powered burr drill in 1871.
The first electric dental drill was patented in 1875 by Green, a revolutionary development that changed the course of the dentistry. The latest evolution was brisk – by 1914, electric dental drills could reach speeds of up to 3000 rpm. The second wave of expeditious development occurred in the 1950s and 60s, counting the development of the air turbine drill.
The modern incarnation of the dental drill is the air turbine handpiece (also called air rotor turbine), introduced by John Patrick Walsh and members of the staff of the Dominion Physical Laboratory (DPL) Wellington, New Zealand. The first official application for a provisional patent for the dental handpiece was granted in October 1949. It was driven by compressed air. The final model is held by the Commonwealth Inventions development Board in Canada.
A patent was granted in November to John Patrick Walsh who perceived the idea of the contra-angle air-turbine handpiece after he had used a small commercial-type air grinder as a straight handpiece. In America, Dr John Borden developed it and it was first commercially manufactured and distributed by the DENTSPLY Company as the Borden Airotor in 1957. Borden Airotors soon were also manufactured by different other companies like KaVo Dental, which built their first one in 1959.
Current iterations can operate at up to 800,000 rpm, however, most common is a 400,000 rpm „high speed” handpiece for precision work complemented with a „low speed” handpiece operating at a speed that is dictated by a micromotor which creates the momentum (max up to 40,000 rpm) for applications requiring higher torque than a high-speed handpiece can deliver.
So we got the high-speed air drill, so popular amongst dentists at the moment. It is a wonderful experience for both doctors and patients, especially that combined with modern types of anaesthesia, the high-speed dental drill is really efficient in treating a lot of dental problems.