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What Is a “Magnetostrictive Ultrasonic Scaler”?

Posted in Dental Care, and General Dentistry

A Dental Tool

A magnetostrictive ultrasonic scaler is the tool used by dentists and hygienists for various procedures. During a cleaning, it uses a specific pattern of pulsing water to remove tarter and debris from tooth surfaces and gum lines. It also is an excellent tool to remove stains from tooth surfaces among other uses. An ultrasonic scaler is much more powerful than the water picks available for consumers. It should only be used by dentists and hygienists because It is possible to damage teeth and tissue if misused.

The practice of supragingival scaling (scaling above the gum line) and periodontal debridement (scaling and root planing) has dramatically improved because of new ultrasonic devices. Although ultrasonic technology has been around for decades, improvements in recent years have allowed its use to become mainstream. Ultrasonic technology in general, whether magnetostrictive (long inserts with metal rods that flex) or piezo-electric (small tips that screw onto the handpiece) offer many advantages to hand scaling alone.

Better for the Patient and the User

The user experiences less hand and wrist fatigue as a lighter touch is needed. The ultrasonic scaler is much less evasive and reduces patient discomfort. It takes less time, especially when a patient has heavy deposits, leaving more time for patient education and discussion. Ultrasonic instruments remove bacterial endotoxins intertwined with gum and root tissues while preserving the cementum (a specialized calcified layer covering the root of a tooth bonding the teeth to the bone). There is also less tissue damage as ultrasonic scaling has no sharp edges which means less bleeding, less discomfort, and less chance of infection. The lack of sharp edges also means less chance of operator injury. Since water is constantly flowing when using ultrasonic scalers, the patients mouth stays hydrated and comfortable throughout and following the procedure. Antiseptic solution can be substituted for the water to provide simultaneous irrigation/disinfection of the region being treated.

Currently Not Used

The drawback to ultrasonic scaling is that it produces aerosols (a suspension of fine solid particles or liquid droplets in air) that potentially can transfer viruses from the patient to others and to surfaces in the room. During the COVID-19 pandemic the CDHO (College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario) has banned aerosol producing procedures. Currently only hand scaling (manually removing plaque and particles) is done during a cleaning so the benefits of ultrasonic scaling discussed above are not available.  Does that mean that a good, productive cleaning and checkup can’t be done? Follow Erbsville Dental’s blog, next week we will discuss hand scaling procedure and its effectiveness.