3 Reasons Why You Should Sharpen Dental Instruments Chair-side
Chair-side sharpening of my scalers and curettes is something I’ve done throughout my career as a periodontist. In each of my scaling and root planing kits, and in my surgical set-ups, I have a sterile dental instrument sharpening stone. I don’t hesitate to stop and use it whenever I sense my instrument is getting dull. Sharpening only takes a few seconds. Very few dentists and hygienists do this even though the benefits of chair-side sharpening make it very worthwhile.
1. Your instruments are always sharp. In my last post I made the case for using sharp instruments. If you agree with this practice, then you either pick up another sharp instrument as you go, or you stop and sharpen the one you are using. I prefer to sharpen the one I’m using. If I have a tough scaling and root planing case, my instruments get dull after one or two teeth. With chair-side sharpening, I can quickly return the edge to sharp.
2. Reduce instrument maintenance. There is another important advantage. How many of you enjoy sharpening a pile of instruments at the end of the day? Not many I suspect. If you sharpen as you go, you never face this unpleasant task.
If you want to deliver superior patient care, you must use sharp instruments at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of every procedure. Instruments lose their edge during a procedure and become very dull at the end. The quality of your care suffers as curettes and scalers loose their edge.
Here’s how I sharpen:
I have a few 4×4 gauze pads, a small towel and a sharpening stone in with my instruments. During set up, I place the towel on the counter top behind me and I moisten the gauze pads with sterile water. I believe the reflective light method is the easiest and best method to determine instrument sharpness. The operatory light is ideal for this. Angle the instrument to reflect light off the edge. A dull edge reflects light, while a sharp edge doe not.
I’ve had a few patients joke about the sound of the sharpening, but never a complaint. I always tell them I could sing but that would be much worse! Actually, I position my body between the sharpening process and the patient so sound is not an issue.
3. Faster Procedures. By using sharp instruments the procedure will take less time and deliver a higher level of care for your patients. After all, isn’t better patient care your top priority?