SCALERS and CURETTES By Renee Knight, Editor
You likely have pretty high expectations for your hygienist. You depend on this team member to help you grow your practice and to provide your patients with top-notch care. Your hygienist must be effective and efficient, but that becomes difficult if he or she doesn’t have access to high-quality scalers and curettes. Hygienists spend a lot of time working with these instruments each day, making it important to invest in scalers and curettes they’re comfortable using. Having the right instruments in hand not only makes their job easier, it also helps enhance the patient experience and ultimately the care they receive. The New Dentist™ magazine recently spoke to two hygienists, Melissa Obrotka, clinical adjunct professor at Bergen Community College, and Sarah Thiel, CEO/Founder of CE Zoom, to get their take on what dentists should consider before purchasing scalers and curettes, as well as their tips on how to get the most out of these instruments. Here’s what they had to say: Include your hygienist. Both Obrotka, RDH, BA and Thiel, RDH, agree the hygienist should be involved in this purchase—he or she will be the one using these tools every day, after all. There are a lot of options on the market, and every hygienist has their own preferences. Thiel suggests sending hygienists to national tradeshows to try different instruments. This will expose them to scalers and curettes they might not have had the chance to use before, and will help them determine what fits most comfortably in their hands. Consider purchasing instruments that stay sharp longer. While these instruments are often more expensive, Thiel and Obrotka both say they’re worth the investment. Obrotka, for example, uses the EverEdge scalers and curettes from Hu-Friedy. They feature technology that keeps them sharp, and that makes her job easier. Dull instruments require hygienists to use more pressure, which leads to hand fatigue and causes the patient discomfort. It also takes longer to complete procedures, which is time the hygienist or doctor could use to educate patients about dentistry and other services the practice provides. “Having dull instruments for hygienists is like a dentist prepping a crown with an old and dull bur,” Obrotka said. “It can be done, however, it will take longer, be more uncomfortable to the patient, yield a less favorable result and be frustrating for the practitioner.” 22 THENEWDENTIST.NET W I N T E R 2 0 1 7
PHOTO COURTESY OF MELISSA OBROTKA, RDH, BA
Choosing the Right
Melissa Obrotka works on a patient using instruments from Hu-Friedy.
Establish a budget. Many hygienists use dull, outdated instruments because they’re afraid to ask their dentist to invest in new scalers and curettes. If you establish a budget for these instruments each year, Obrotka said, your hygienist will know exactly how much is available to replace old instruments. Obrotka also suggests giving hygienists the autonomy to make these purchases on their own, which ensures the instruments get replaced with tools the hygienist is happy to use. Choose the right handle. This is key to ergonomics, Thiel said. It’s important to understand, though, that every hygienist is different. Thiel prefers a thicker handle because it’s easier for her to grip, for example, but other hygienists might be more comfortable using something thinner. Keep them maintained. The sharper the instrument, the better, Thiel said, which is why she stresses the importance of sharpening traditional scalers and curettes as often as possible. She usually sharpens every fourth patient, and can tell the difference if she doesn’t. She uses an electric sharpener because it helps her instruments stay sharper longer. Obrotka rotates through her sets and sends them out for sharpening when necessary, she said, and sharpens them herself if she needs to as well. “These instruments don’t last forever, and they definitely need maintained,” Obrotka said. “You have to audit your instruments periodically so you can decide what needs sharpened and what needs replaced. You really want your hygienists to operate at an optimal level, and they have to have the best instruments possible to do that.” Don’t re-tip. Many dentists opt to re-tip because it saves them money, Thiel said, but it also makes the instruments weaker and more likely to break while they’re in a patient’s mouth—which is a situation you don’t want your hygienist to get into. Remember, there are many quality scalers and curettes on the market. It’s important for hygienists to try a variety of instruments, and to find what’s most comfortable for them. “Let the hygienist choose,” Thiel said. “If the hygienist is happy, your patients are happy.”
Published on Dec 6, 2017