Curing sealants, varnishes

Feb. 1, 2013
Productivity is one of the top concerns in any dental office. For hygienists, the ability to do our jobs thoroughly and efficiently helps solidify our talent ...
How a curing light can help maximize your time


Productivity is one of the top concerns in any dental office. For hygienists, the ability to do our jobs thoroughly and efficiently helps solidify our talent and demonstrate our value in the practice. Factors outside of our control, though, often can have an impact on productivity. One example is office technology. In some cases, we choose our own products, but in other situations we simply use what the practice is equipped with, which may or may not have been selected with an eye toward maximizing the hygienist's productivity. However, by paying close attention to how products impact our efficiency, we can identify areas where improvements can be made.

The curing light is a great example. Depending on whether or not you place sealants and varnishes, the curing light may be something you haven't given much thought to. But those of us who do these procedures on a regular basis may recognize that the curing light can have subtle but definite effects on our efficiency, contributing to productivity of the entire practice.

What to Look For in a Light

When I began practicing 15 years ago, curing lights were typically all white-colored, corded, and equipped with loud fans. As time passed and they were used around the office, the white color would often start to yellow and the lights would pick up stains from various materials. Infection control was a concern, since it was never clear if a light had been wiped down after its last use. The lights also had lots of crevices that made it difficult to thoroughly disinfect.

But the biggest hassle was the restriction of the cord. Using a corded curing light meant constantly having to situate the cord so it wouldn't get in the way or rest uncomfortably on patients' faces. It also meant having to plug in and unplug the light when it moved between operatories. While these hassles may seem small, they are exactly the kinds of issues that can cost precious minutes during an appointment.

For the past several years, I have used a curing light that eliminates these problems and also improves procedures from the patient's perspective. My practice is equipped with the 3M ESPE Elipar S10 LED Curing Light, which differs from a lot of other lights in that it is made from seamless, stainless steel. Unlike the old lights that had crevices where bacteria could hide, the Elipar S10 curing light has no seams or vents, so there are no worries about bacteria, and also no problems with liquid seeping into the unit. This light can be wiped down very easily and the hygienist can feel confident that it actually is disinfected.

The Elipar S10 is also well designed ergonomically, and it is cordless, making it fast and simple to move the light between operatories.

Shaving Minutes Off a Procedure

The importance of these benefits is exemplified during the sealant procedure. Many of us have probably experienced appointments where we would have liked to place a sealant, but the time remaining in the appointment was just short of the time we would need. In cases like this, we have to ask the patient to return for an additional appointment, which patients do not always do.

However, using the right sealant and curing light can give a hygienist the confidence to know that the procedure can be squeezed in during the regular hygiene appointment. When placing a sealant such as 3M ESPE Clinpro Sealant, I know that I can quickly brush on adhesive, air dry, apply the sealant, and light cure. The sealant flows into pits and fissures and its pink color makes it easy to see before curing (after which it turns white). The Elipar S10 curing light does its job quickly -- it can cure an entire surface in just one shot -- and I know that cleanup won't slow me down after the procedure either.

I have found these qualities are especially helpful when treating children, who don't always react well to dental procedures. With these tools, the hygienist can be in and out before young patients have time to react. The fact that the curing light is sleek and does not have a noisy fan is also very helpful for treating children, since it doesn't look too intimidating or make a loud noise.

Every Minute Counts

These are just a few of the ways that using a modern, well-designed curing light can benefit the hygienist. Of course, we don't all have the luxury of working in practices that are equipped with these new lights. Hygienists who would like an upgrade should feel empowered to talk to his or her dentist about the advantages of this technology.

Productivity improvement is a topic that appeals to almost any dentist. By outlining how a curing light can impact your ability to stay on schedule and place sealants efficiently, you can make a compelling argument for why the practice should make the investment. We know that every minute counts in the operatory -- whether during setup, treatment or cleanup -- so a tool that helps you save time in each of these steps is a very important asset. RDH

PENELOPE MULLIGAN, RDH, graduated from the Texas A&M/Baylor College of Dentistry located in Dallas. She graduated with a bachelor's of science degree in 1996. Penelope started her dental hygiene career in Dallas and moved to San Diego in 2001. She is currently practicing in a multi-specialty office at The Scripps Center For Dental Care, located in La Jolla, Calif., where she is one of four hygienists in the practice.

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