A dental student’s research into how handpieces stay cool may mean savings for dentists around the world. Helene Chua, a fourth-year BDS candidate at the University of Otago Faculty of Dentistry, is investigating the cooling efficiency of different numbers of water coolant ports on high-speed handpieces (HSHs).
Water cooling controls heat from the handpieces’ high-speed bur-tooth interfaces. While handpieces may have as many as four coolant ports, single-port HSHs are considerably cheaper. For example, a handpiece with four coolant ports costs around $1,800, while a single-port variety is around $800.
While Chua’s research found that an increased number of cooling ports led to better cooling, there was no statistically significant difference. That finding could end up being “a step towards making handpieces better and more comfortable,” said Chua, who was the recipient of the Otago Medical Research Foundation’s 2018/2019 Summer Research Scholarship.
“Not many dentists know about the specifics of the tools they are using, and this research gives them information for choosing what to buy and use,” Chua said.
Chua’s research supervisor, Joanne Choi, BDT, PhD, said that the novel research topic addressed current questions in dentistry. Chua’s willingness to do the research was impressive and “definitely” set an example for other undergraduates to follow, Choi said.
“Opportunities like this give undergraduate students a taste of research, and that can encourage them to pursue postgraduate studies and possible future academic careers. It also lets students understand the importance of research-informed teaching and research-based practice as a dental professional,” Choi said.
Neil Waddell, MDipTech, PhD, associate professor with the Department of Oral Rehabilitation, said that Chua’s ability to win the scholarship as a third-year dental student—and unusual occurrence—and then complete the research to such a high standard reflected her considerable ability and potential.
“She’s a very clever young woman and has a very bright future in dental research,” said Waddell.