Sharpening Hygiene Instruments
Recently I was asked by a doctor, “How often should a hygienist be sharpening instruments?” The doctor was concerned about time management, and if sharpening after every patient seemed excessive. I wish I could have given the doctor an industry standard. However, many factors affect how often we need to sharpen our instruments. The difficulty of the patients being seen, the amount of restorations in the mouth, how many set-ups we have, and the number of patients we see daily are just a few examples.
For many of us, it is not how often we need to sharpen our instruments, but having the time to do it as often as needed. Having sharp instruments is very important, not only when it comes to patient comfort and quality of care, but also to the comfort and long-term health of the hygienist.
When a hygienist is working in a periodontal practice, or perhaps a perio focused general practice where patients tend to have very hard and tenacious calculus, the hygienist may find the need to sharpen instruments during the periodontal maintenance appointment or root planing. Hygienists who do routine prophylaxis all day may not need to sharpen as often. If a patient has a lot of amalgam restorations, this will also cause the instruments to become dull quicker.
If a hygienist sees eight patients a day and only has five set-ups, the instruments will need to be sharpened more often than a hygienist who sees eight patients a day with ten set-ups. The hygienist with less set-ups will be using them more often. What it boils down to is, if the instrument is dull, it needs to be sharpened.
We all know the best instrument to use is one that has sharpness provided by the manufacturer. There is nothing like a cutting edge that is brand new. Having a sharp instrument reduces the amount of pressure needed to clean the tooth, and reduces the amount of strokes needed to remove the calculus.
One option is American Eagle’s XP Technology “Sharpen Free Instrument”. The XP instruments undergo a process that hardens the stainless steel and encapsulates the steel with a diamond-like layer. This makes an edge that will last months without sharpening. According to American Eagle, the stroke test shows that XP Technology handles 10 times the strokes with only 1/10th the wear.
This is a great option to help cut back on the amount of time spent sharpening. If hygienists are running late because they are taking time between patients to sharpen instruments, this does not help patient retention. In addition, an office with multiple hygienists may not need to purchase as many set-ups because there won’t be multiple hygienists sharpening instruments differently. Eliminating the need for sharpening allows hygienists’ time to be used more productively and helps with time management.
A couple more advantages of XP Technology is that the instruments are thinner right from the start, and sharper. The instrument is thinner initially because there is no need for a thick blade to compensate for removal of material due to sharpening. This makes it easier to get into the base of the pockets in patients’ mouths. It also reduces the amount of pressure and strokes used, helping to reduce hand fatigue and creating a more comfortable experience for your patients.
It is recommended that the office keep additional brand new set-ups on hand. This allows you to compare instruments to determine when they need to be replaced, and eliminates wait time when they do. There is nothing worse than having an instrument that is not long enough or sharp enough to reach the base of the pocket or the interproximal space.
Patient comfort is a very important concern. If patients feel comfortable and receive quality of care, they are more likely to continue to return to your practice for hygiene appointments at the recommended interval.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151
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