Sharp Tips for Maintaining Your Scalers
The worldwide pop culture phenomenon is back, and it’s taking another bite out of your calendar this week. That’s right, SHARK WEEK is making its annual appearance. You probably already know this if you’ve been seeing sharks all over your televisions. In 2016, we were inspired by Shark Week and discovered a unique dental connection to this tradition. What does a shark and dentistry have in common, you ask? That one is simple: teeth. What does a shark’s teeth have in common with Hu-Friedy? Sharpness. Hu-Friedy scalers are used globally and are known worldwide for their sharpness. The parallels were clear and thus, “Sharp Week” was born!
Dental instruments have one other thing in common with sharks, they are subject to many myths and incorrect beliefs. Hu-Friedy is on a mission to set the record straight on some common scaler misconceptions. In this week’s blog post, we give you some tips, so your instruments remain effective and most important of all, sharp like a Shark’s tooth. Is retipping bad? Does a scaler last forever? Is there such a thing as a sharpen-free scaler? Dive in and discover some truths about dental instruments!
SCALERS LAST ABOUT A COUPLE YEARS, RIGHT?
Did you know a shark can live up to 70 years old? Obviously, your scalers can’t. The useful life of a scaler depends on a variety of factors. How often are your scalers used? Sterilized? Sharpened? How many clinical applications are they used for? Every now and then, it’s a good idea to look over instruments and “audit” them to make sure that they’re in the ideal condition. When they work effectively, you work efficiently.
SHARP TIP: Examine your instruments. Ask yourself these questions. Have any been re-tipped? Are they dull or chipped on the cutting edge or point? Are they bent? Broken? Are the curettes pointed? Are the blades too thin? Is the blade 20% smaller than when it was new? These are all common effects of instrument wear and tear. If the answer to any of these questions is a “yes,” then it’s time for them to be replaced.
For more help on instrument audits, check out our free PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENT GUIDE, INSTRUMENT CHECK-UP.
IS BEING SHARPEST REALLY THAT IMPORTANT?
Did you know most sharks lose tens of thousands of teeth during their lifespan? They have rows of teeth waiting to replace the old dull ones that are lost every few weeks. It is safe to say that sharks know the value of staying sharp. So, why shouldn’t your instruments stay sharp as well? The sharper the scaler, the more efficient and productive you can be. Using a sharp scaler is the only way you can deliver the best clinical outcomes for your patients. Dull instruments become more difficult to use and less comfortable for your patients with every use. A possible result? BURNISHED CALCULUS – which can have a negative effect on a patient’s overall oral health. An easy way to test instrument sharpness is with PLASTIC TEST STICKS, which are inexpensive and effective. Test sticks won’t give you a “false positive” like plastic saliva ejectors will, nor will they dull the instrument.
SHARP TIP: Regular maintenance sharpening will extend the useful life of a scaler. We advise sharpening scalers regularly, but if you prefer a new instrument to a sharpened one, take advantage of our ENVIRONDENT PROGRAM (More information below.)
DO “SHARPEN-FREE” SCALERS EXIST?
While shark experts aren’t certain of the cause of MEGALODON’S EXTINCTION, they unanimously agree that this prehistoric mega-shark is no longer around. People truly want to believe Megalodon still exists… but reality bites. There is no such thing as a “sharpen-free” scaler because all scalers get dull eventually. If a manufacturer offers “never sharpen” scalers, they’re really suggesting that the scaler is replaced as soon as it’s dull.
SHARP TIP: If you decide to go with a “never sharpen” scaler, ask questions to decide if it’s the best option. It’s important to know that sharpening these kinds of scalers may result in the coating flaking off, which can harm patients. Also, these scalers are not meant to be used on heavy calculus.
DOES SUPERIOR MANUFACTURING EQUAL LONGER-LASTING?
Sharks are famous for their sharp teeth. How interesting would Jaws have been if the shark had dull teeth? Hu-Friedy created a sharper instrument through design and manufacturing innovation, making it easier to scale tough deposits, and providing a longer life of the instrument. Our superior manufacturing process resulted in a sharper design that results in superior, longer-lasting products.
SHARP TIP: EVEREDGE 2.0 scalers are 72% sharper out of the box than our competitors’ scalers and at least 50% sharper after 500 strokes than those of our competitors’. That means fewer strokes, resulting in increased clinician and patient comfort.
IS A HARDER BLADE BETTER?
Did you know a shark skeleton is made of cartilage and not bone? Cartilage is more flexible than bone, allowing a shark to turn around in a smaller space better than a bony fish. Sharks’ flexible skeletons are more effective when capturing prey. Like cartilage in sharks, hardness in scalers does not equate to sharpness or effectiveness. Instead, look for the proper balance of firmness and flexibility to maximize tactile sensitivity. The great thing about the EVEREDGE 2.0 is it features a new steel that is sharper, but not harder. This means that the instrument, while being significantly sharper, is no more difficult to sharpen. What options do dental professionals have at the end of the useful life of their instruments? Shark teeth eventually fall out, ready to be replaced with newer, sharper teeth. Eventually, your scaler will need to be recycled, too. When the time comes at which a scaler cannot be sharpened anymore, the best option is instrument recycling. By sending an instrument in to be recycled, the dental practice saves space on storing unusable instruments and benefits from kickbacks.
SHARP TIP: Our ENVIRONDENT PROGRAM offers one free Hu-Friedy instrument for every 12 sent in to be recycled, no matter the brand. Moreover, the instruments are safely and responsibly recycled, helping the planet. After they’ve been cleaned and heat sterilized, the used instruments can be shipped in a box to Hu-Friedy. A small, flat-rate box can hold 60 instruments, so the practice is eligible for five new instruments with just one mailing.
SHOULD I RETIP MY SCALERS?
Sharks frequently lose their teeth because they are anchored in cartilage, as opposed to bone (like our own teeth). But have you ever seen a toothless shark? Most likely not. That’s because sharks have rows and rows of teeth growing in their mouths. As teeth fall out in the front, teeth from the back migrate forward to replace them. But what does this have to do with human dentistry or dental instruments? Well, when a shark’s tooth has met its useful lifespan and becomes dull, it is replaced – never retipped. Similarly, dental instruments should never be retipped; they should be replaced by an entirely new instrument once the tips have been damaged or worn beyond their useful life. Because of potentially dangerous consequences, no major dental manufacturer will retip instruments in the U.S. In fact, the FDA requires that retipped instruments be labeled as such so that the end user is aware of the risks they pose in infection control. Retipping is not the simple process it sounds like. Retipping an instrument is an involved process that requires removing the “turner,” not just the tip. Retipping requires forcing the removal of the working end and force-fitting its replacement, which often creates cracks in the handle where debris and fluid accumulate, making it harder to properly clean and sterilize. The replacement instrument is often a different size, shape, and composition than the original, and its balance will likely be lost in the process. It does not result in an identical replacement of the original instrument, and it introduces dangers to your staff and your patients.
For more information regarding retipping, please check out Hu-Friedy’s IN-CLINIC VIDEO SERIES where Dr. David Rice highlights the risks of retipping and how it ends up costing you in the long run.
SHARP TIP: The risks associated with retipping far outweigh any possible cost savings. Yes, Sharper instruments last longer, but all instruments still dull over time. Thinner or harder blades are not necessarily better, so it’s important to find the right combination of toughness and flexibility for your needs.
Now that you understand your dental instruments a bit better, check out our INSTRUMENT MANAGEMENT & INFECTION PREVENTION GUIDE on how to keep your instruments, patients, and team members. Also, take a look at Hu-Friedy’s INSTRUMENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM TESTIMONIAL VIDEOS and see how Instrument Management can help extend the lifespan of your instruments preventing bending, cracking, etc.