My career as a periodontist spanned many years. I was involved in education for a time and was director of a hospital based residency program for two years. I was in private practice for over 30 years. I was surprised to learn that the average dental practice spends $50,000/yr. or more on supplies, including hand instruments. This is according to an ADA survey done a few years ago. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it’s how to stretch a dental practice instrument budget.
First, buy quality instruments that sharpen well and will last beyond a few procedures. Second, use only as many instruments as you need to get the job done. That may include six or seven for some and as few as two for others. I generally used just two. I used a universal curette like a U of C Ratcliff 5/6 and a Gracey 13/14. I trained with the Columbia 13/14 but liked the larger size of the Ratcliff. Plus, it actually became more like a Columbia 13/14 after I sharpened it enough times. I found the Gracey 13/14 to be a very versatile instrument that became more useful in tight areas the smaller it got (the more it was sharpened).
Third, get creative and re-purpose old instruments. For example, I didn’t purchase sickle scalers. I actually made my own! Here’s how – I said I used 2 hand instruments most of the time. I actually used 4. I had the two I mentioned above and two of the same which I called my “thin kit.” After my instruments were sharpened enough they were relegated to a thin kit. (Picture 1) The “thins” were used in tight spaces. If a space was really tight I’d use a thin 5/6 sharpened to a point and made a sickle out of it. (Picture 2) It was typically disposed of after the procedure (it was essentially at the end of it’s useful life anyway).
A big advantage of practicing this way is that it saved money and simplified things. Fewer instruments to sharpen, package, sterilize, organize, order and stock, etc. Give it a try. You’ll be surprised how well you can do with minimal instrumentation, not to mention how much easier it will be on your dental practice instrument budget.