In this article, we hope to demystify the use (or non-use) of the ultrasonic, also referred to as the cavitron or the waterscaler during your dental hygiene therapy appointment.

Thirty years ago, ultrasonics in hygiene therapy were used only for removing calculus (tarter) above the gums. The tips were thick and bulky. Hygienists then were taught mostly hand scaling. Nowadays, there are a greater variety of tips, all fine enough to go below the gums. Continuing education courses keep us abreast of the latest ultrasonic techniques and practices.

While the ultrasonic does remove calculus (at a seemingly faster rate than hand scaling), it doesn't necessarily remove it all. It is best used to flush bacterial biofilm and plaque from under the gums. Localized or generalized hand scaling, with greater tactile sense for the hygienist, follows. Sometimes, a final flush of the tissues with the ultrasonic may be the done at the conclusion of hand scaling.

Generally, the consensus is that some combination of both hand scaling and ultrasonic is best.

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Remember that each hygienist has graduated from a different school, in different eras, with different teaching influences. We will usually resort to what we feel most comfortable with; how we can best approach and succeed with your individual therapy. We don't all use the exact same hand instruments, nor do we use the ultrasonic in exactly the same manner. Some hygienists tend to gravitate more to hand instruments, others more to the ultrasonic. There is no absolute right or wrong.

Keep in mind, every mouth and its periodontal condition is different. Also, while some patients like the ultrasonic, some do not. Both can be either uncomfortable or comfortable, depending on the individual. I have patients who love the ultrasonic and would prefer I use it over hand scaling, others hate it and prefer I never use it. In my own mouth, I prefer hand scaling!

If you have a preference, please let us know! If we've never used the ultrasonic on you, ask us to try it! Let's find out what works best for you!

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