Monday, November 12, 2018

BSB Camera: a Bigger Burger Patty for your buck

Photomed has always sold a compact Canon setup for about $1400. Now it's $1500, and the SX470 camera upon which they base it on is $400 at Canon's official store. I realize they provide documentation, loaners and support, but they used to give you a higher line G series camera. I love a lot of their stuff, but I don't like the value proposition here. (and if you are a serious Canon color snob, then you are probably getting a $3000 SLR rig anyways)

For comparison's sake, BlueSkyBio is selling the faster focusing, much larger sensor size Olympus E-PL8 in a nearly identical configuration (camera+diffuser + close up filter for the default lens) for $900. BSB's kit doesn't have the slick one piece magnetic mount. You have to screw on the close up filter and screw on the diffuser panel. But it's $600 less and includes a 4 times larger sensor. I'll take a larger sensor any day of the week.

Remember, sensor size to cameras is like the meat in a hamburger--it's the main driver of cost and the main factor in image quality (besides the lens). Don't pay $15 for a hamburger with a tiny patty found inside $1 hamburgers. BSB's camera is best combo deal you'll find in dental photography. It's like Carl's Jr (Hardees) thickburgers - a restaurant sized patty inside a fast food priced burger.

Micro-four thirds is on the smaller size for interchangeable lens cameras, but IMO it's the perfect size for dentistry. Big depth of field yet good detail and more than enough dynamic range when you're using flash. Going bigger in sensor size (like APS-C and 35mm "full frame") in SLR's will not look significantly better for dentistry, yet will require much larger and heavier lenses and bodies to handle the larger sensor. 1" sensor size would still work for dentistry, but unfortunately, there aren't any cameras with lenses that immediately lend themselves to our needs.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Dental mixing tips for impressions and cements

The markup on mixing tips can be insane...often about $1.50 per use from major dental dealers.  I've found them for less than half of that. 

Check out my mixing tip collection on

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

My Retraction Statement: How Dentists Turn the Other Cheek

I found steel retractors in the shape of the plastic ones I like. These are two handed (patient controls the tension; can't blame you for being rough) and have large and small ends. Unlike the plastic ones, they won't melt in your autoclave. (and if they do, you have other problems)

There's also a black stainless steel version. This appears to be either painted or anodized. They were piano black glossy when I first got them, but autoclaving seems to have added a patina to them. It does rub off, but I prefer leaving it matte to reduce the slight glare you see on these photos. I wish it were black silicone; that's my favorite surface finish for black anterior contrasters.

Search for stainless steel lip retractors on e-bay.
(Affiliate link: I make a small commission at no added cost to you)

Search for the black stainless steel cheek retractors on ebay.
(Affiliate link: I make a small commission at no added cost to you)

PS What about the stainless steel Columbia retractors I used in dental school?

I used to use Columbia retractors.  Advantages: The Colombia is VERY durable --should last your entire career.  It also easily retracts without interfering with occlusal mirrors or buccal mirrors.  The downsides are it's VERY bulky to sterilize and it looks very "gynecological" / "medieval" in its appearance.  I switched to Columbias entirely for a few months, now I'm switching back to this shape. It's personal preference; there isn't a "wrong" answer as long as you get the image you want, and your patients don't flee you in fear.

If you're in a fast paced clinic where things get beat up, definitely consider stainless steel retractors over plastic ones.  It will definitely cost you less in the long run.

Photomed has an excellent collection of retractors.  They are amongst the only ones who sell round ended Colombia retractors.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Air polishing

The affordable air polisher we use costs around $16 shipped on eBay.

Search for air polishers on ebay here.  (affiliate link) There are a LOT of models that meet my keywords; be sure to pick the model pictured above.  I haven't tested every single model, but of the three I tried, this was the easiest to aim.  We don't air polish much due to the powder mess, but when you need it, you need it.  At $16, you can afford to keep one or two in the drawer.  At time of writing, there was a listing for $14.29 from a US seller.  Least expensive 4 hole model I could find. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Best eBay Slow Speeds for your Money

After testing out many of the various options online, the best economical slow speed combo online is this "slow low" dental handpiece Denshine kit for as low as $36, shipped.

Buy the "slow low" handpiece kit here on eBay (affiliate link)

Why this kit over all the others?

This kit combines all the pieces I like using into one combo: a slow speed motor, a push button contra angle, and a straight nose cone.

Updated Denshine Slow Speed Motor :  The direction ring has slightly less play than the version before it.  That means it's less likely to get stuck between fully forward and reverse.  Like the previous version, it has plenty of torque--if you floor it.  My two criticisms of it follow, too: the irrigation port that sticks awkwardly out to the side to squirt your patients, and the lack of low RPM torque.  It simply stalls until you have half throttle.  This makes low and slow prophies difficult for me.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Twenty Dollar Typodont

This clear typodont costs under $20 from US sellers.  Our readers and facebook friends have given lots of positive feedback on this model.  It's not perfect, and little pieces have been known to fall off.  But for $20, my low expectations were more than exceeded.   I highly recommend this for patient consults.

Shop for this patient education typodont on eBay.  (affiliate link)

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Best eBay Dental High Speed Handpiece

After trying at least six different eBay imports, my favorite imported high speed handpiece is the Skysea SKED-A6.  It's a large head handpiece with lots of torque for prepping crowns.

The Skysea SKED-A6 comes with a great coupler 

Shop for the Skysea SKED-A6 here on eBay.  Make sure you get the version pictured above with the black band coupler.  Do not get the B6 version unless you already have that specific coupler connection in your office already. It should run you about $90-100 shipped with coupler included.  You will need one coupler per dental unit, and I would have one spare coupler at all times.  Save those extra o-ring baggies in a safe place.  It takes a really long time for these couplers to leak, but when they do, you'll want extra o-rings on hand.

EDIT 7/13/2018: These SKED handpieces seems to run a tiny bit larger at the connection than the others I use. They are now leaking water at the coupler.  I've changed the o-rings on the coupler without success.  So I'm less bullish on these handpieces as I was when I wrote this originally.

If you want to make it last three times longer, get the Skysea SKED A6 packaged with 3 replacement turbines.  All my favorite handpieces from ebay have had this gold turbine in common. When the turbine fails, just swap it with the included tool. (it's a flat piece of metal with a notch cut out of the side.  don't throw it away)  It's a very easy handpiece to repair.

What I like:
  • Big head for lots of torque - it's my favorite crown prepper on the market right now
  • Triple spray - keeps the burs and the prep clean
  • Kavo multi-flex connection - fast on and off, and you can relieve hose tension by swiveling
  • LED headlight - even with loupes, it's nice having a little more light
  • margins - in my hands, it cuts very smoothly.  
  • fat grip - easy on the fingers
  • easy repair - just twist the wrench on the back of the head.  Also includes a little tool to unclog the spray ports.
What I don't like
  • access - it can be hard to see around that head, and hard to get in tight spaces, too.
  • noise could be better.  But handpieces that are noiser tend to cut smoother margins.  
What you will need to use it:

  • six hole handpiece tubing
  • an LED power supply inside your dental unit
  • a decent kavo multiflex coupler
The best generic LED multiflex couplers have a black band

In case you didn't know, the Kavo multi-flex quick connect is well established, reliable, and out of patent.  So lots of companies are using that swivel standard.  It's a big reason I decided to invest in this particular coupler system.  The Skysea SKED A6 comes with the multfiflex couplers above.  They have been very reliable for me. There are more expensive $200 versions from Vector and mkdent, or the even more expensive original Kavo couplers.   But the most cost effective way to get them is to buy a handpiece with the coupler thrown in.   

4 hole tubing trick: if you like this handpiece, but have a four hole tubing, you can sacrifice the LED lighting and simply cut off the two tiny electrical pins on the coupler.  The quick connect will then fit any standard four hole tubing.

Alternatively you can buy a 4 hole coupler with an e-generator built in.  This lets you keep your standard 4 hole tubing and have light for your high speeds.  One downside with e-generators is that they are RPM dependent.  So the faster you spin, the brighter the light gets.  If you are pedal to the metal all the time, this would be less of an issue for you.  If you vary your speed a lot, then the lights will brighten and dim a lot.  I was told by my first employer that varying your rpm speed was a bad habit I needed to break. :)

Edit 8/24/2018: Here's a less expensive 4 hole coupler with e generator built in.


If you already have the couplers, a solid $60 pick

ADDED 5/10/2017 - This is the updated version of my favorite ebay handpiece, the YBB-T-M4-SU. Look for the "wavy handle grip" high speed.  It also uses the golden turbine and triple water spray.  Just got three of them for $180 shipped, kavo multiflex couplers not included.  That's $60 for a pretty good crown prepping handpiece with fiber optic headlight, swivel, and 3 port spray.  As is typical for eBay Chinese handpiece listings, the photographs don't always match what you actually get.  The photographs say "Sandent" but I got the same handpiece with the "Yabangbang" brand.  The clincher for me was clicking onto the fifth or sixth photo and seeing that golden turbine I love so much.

Shop for the YBB-T-M4-SU triple spray kavo compatible high speed with golden turbine.

Edit 8/24/2018 - the link above still works, but you have to scroll down a page to find this 3 pack.  Here's a single handpiece for $65Here's 3 of the "wavy handle" for $183.  These are specific listing links, so they may expire.

LONG TERM UPDATE 7/12/2018: Those "wavy handle" Sandent handpieces are are still my overall favorites.  Couplerisn't included, but you can ONE different model handpiece that comes with a coupler and get some use out of that.

Bargain pick: e-generator non-swivel handpieces for 4 hole tubing

this $20-30 high speed has most of the features and performance of our top pick -- except swivel

If you don't need swivel coupling, then you can get the exact same gold ceramic bearing turbine (and therefore basically identical performance) from this Dentshine handpiece.  In my brief time with it, the water performance, noise and water spray have all been great--as good as the Skysea above for one third the price.  You do give up swivel and quick connect.  It might be a touch quieter, too. As previously mentioned, e-generators give LED light to non-electric 4 hole tubing, but they dim and brighten with your RPM's.  The traditional power source in 6 pin tubing maintains its brightness regardless of rotation speed.  But at $20-30 shipped per handpiece, from US sellers no less, it's a great buy, especially for low-duty use as an adjustment or ortho high speed.  Buy the Dentshine e-generator 4 hole  handpiece on ebay here.

Also for around $20, you can also get the YBB TM4-SU from US sellers.  Shop for the YBB TM4-SU here.  This uses a smaller turbine, but it seems to work just as well.  However, handpieces with this same turbine have not lasted ]as long for me as the gold turbine.  I also don't like the skinnier neck, but those with smaller hands might.  My hands get tired faster holding these things.

I personally dislike non-swivel handpieces.  You can't twist the handpiece tubing to relieve tension on your wrist. But if that doesn't matter to you, or you want to eliminate the potential leakage of a coupler, the non-swivel version is a fantastic bargain.   I've been told if you've never had swivel to begin with, you won't miss it.  Electric handpiece owners also like these cheap handpieces for quick adjustment visits, in order to spare the wear and tear on their expensive 1:5 attachments.

The small head

If you need a small head handpiece that cuts well, check out my review on the Skysea mini head.  It's got a very high pitched whine, and you'll need to use short shank burs.  But it's about 80% as good as my NSK picomax.  Had I known about these beforehand, I wouldn't have bought the NSK.  It's too expensive for something I only need occasionally.

The ones I didn't like

Ruixin handpieces are much more expensive (for Chinese) and loud.  My copy leaked, and the turbine cartridge didn't last very long at all.   The Dentshine $12 handpieces I previously liked have been breaking down just a few months in.  I suppose I can't expect the world out of a $12 handpiece, so I'll chalk that one up to experience.  Coxo handpieces have a loud high pitched whine I can't stand.

The Caveats of eBay buying

If you want risk free buying, eBay may not be for you.  There are many things to be aware of when buying from eBay Chinese sellers:

  • English is not their first language, so messages may not be clearly understood
  • Shipping is very slow - four weeks is not uncommon
  • Returns are practically impossible - yes, they list return policies, but it's hard to make the shipping labels in Chinese, shipping rates are ridiculous, and both attempts I've made have been lost. 
  • Reliability is frankly not as good - you WILL have fewer problems with top tier brands.  You're saving money; decide for yourself if the occasional inconvenience is worth it.
I have bought all my Chinese gear for less than the cost of two Kavo Gentlesilence Lux.  Those are sitting idle because the turbines have worn out.  I can buy several imported handpieces for less than the cost of the Kavo turbines.  High repair costs have also made me reluctant to use electric handpieces.

If you don't want to deal with the risks and frustrations of these Chinese made handpieces, Lares Research makes very good moderate priced handpieces.  And if you want top flight quality, there's always NSK and Kavo--for a price.

The only way to know what works and what doesn't is to buy and try.   Good luck!

EDIT: 8/10/2017

After a few additional months of using pretty much exclusively eBay handpieces, this is what I would suggest.  For coupler you need (usually one per operatory), get the Skysea SKED A6 packaged with 3 replacement turbines.  That will give you 3 spare turbines AND a coupler.  Then get "wavy handle"
YBB-T-M4-SU triple spray kavo compatible high speed with golden turbine to stock the rest of your "big boy" high speed rotation.  Get one or two Skysea mini head for small spaces.  You should be able to stock enough for a three column schedule for the price of a single top tier handpiece.

Edit 8/24/2018 - the "wavy handles" are difficult to find on the keyword search links..  Here's a single handpiece for $65.  Here's 3 of the "wavy handle" for $183.  These are specific listing links, so they may expire.

EDIT: 7/11/2018

All things must come to an end, but most of the time, a new turbine brings it back from the dead in just a minute!  The spare turbines can be found for about $16 a piece.  No drill press or special tools needed, beyond the wrench that comes with the handpiece.  (don't throw them away!)  Unscrew the back, pull out the old turbine, push in the new one, and replace the back cover.  Blow in some oil and you're ready to rock and roll again!

Shop for the golden turbine cartridges here on eBay.  (affiliate link)