An ultrasonic scaler is one of the most powerful and fastest ways of cleaning your teeth. Ultrasonic scalers are nothing new – in fact, this type of equipment first came into use in the middle part of the 20th century, and today, it’s still considered high-tech. An experienced practitioner can use an ultrasonic scaler to get at hard deposits that you’ll never be able to remove with a toothbrush, flush away unwanted bacteria, and even restore brightness to moderately stained teeth.
You may already have been up close and personal with an ultrasonic scaler. That’s because for many dental hygienists and dentists, the ultrasonic scaler is the tool that they prefer. Why is that? It’s simple – it’s because they’re so very effective when it comes to removing tartar from the crown (the area above the gum) and the root (the area below the gum), blasting away plaque, and getting rid of stains. Because removing tartar and plaque eliminates undesirable bacteria below the gum line, the process of having your teeth cleaned with an ultrasonic scaler is sometimes called “root debridement,” and it’s one of the best methods for prevention of gum diseases.
How Does an Ultrasonic Scaler Work?
There are two kinds of ultrasonic scalers – magnetostrictive and piezoelectric. They both work in essentially the same manner – electromagnetic forces cause the tip of the unit to vibrate very quickly. The piezoelectric type of ultrasonic scaler has a linear motion, and the magnetostrictive ultrasonic scaler moves elliptically. With either type, the vibrations range between 25,000 and 45,000 pulses per second – in other words, ultrasonic vibration.
The speed of the tip makes it possible for the ultrasonic scaler to remove hardened deposits from the teeth without causing any damage. In fact, some tips can even be used on the roots of the teeth. Because of the speed with which tartar and stains can be removed, the patient doesn’t have to spend a lot of time in the chair, and the practitioner does not become tired. If you’ve ever wondered why your dental practitioner continually squirts water into your mouth when using the ultrasonic scaler, it’s because the tip vibrates so quickly that it becomes hot, and needs a constant supply of water in order for it to stay cool in your mouth – this process is called “lavage.”
In addition to ensuring that the tip doesn’t overheat, lavage also keeps the particles of tartar and plaque away from the area that’s being treated. There’s another benefit as well. As the water comes into contact with the vibrating tip, millions of bubbles are created – this is known as “cavitation.” Essentially, it ruptures the walls of bacterial cells, destroying the environment that pathogens occupy. Some practitioners will even add antibacterial agents to the water.
As a general rule, anyone who needs to have their teeth cleaned above and below the gum line can improve their overall dental health with ultrasonic scaling. People who are at risk for periodontal disease should definitely undergo this type of treatment. Ultrasonic scalers can be used alone, but are often used along with hand scalers to facilitate a complete, thorough cleaning.
Patients who have porcelain or composite restorations, titanium implants, or demineralized areas on their teeth should inform us before we begin treatment. This is because we may need to use special tips if any of these conditions are present. Also, if your teeth are overly sensitive, or if you have a pacemaker, we need to know so that we can take appropriate precautions.
When it comes to safety, patient comfort, and overall effectiveness, ultrasonic scaling is one of the best non-invasive therapeutic procedures you can have in order to improve your dental health.
Text Copyright © 2015 Louis K. Cheung DDS PS – All rights reserved. Images used under license from Dear Doctor, Inc.