Waltzing through the sulcus

I invite you to learn to waltz through the sulcus in the comfort zone — a dance of a lifetime that just may very well save your career.

Country music is popular down here in Texas. Even though I am not a native, I find the classic tune "Waltzing Across Texas" very endearing. Bob Wills' unforgettable melody can just hang in your mind, making your feet itch for a turn around the dance floor.

You probably think my brain has taken a turn into left field — too much heat, too much humidity, or maybe just too many jalapenos are beginning to affect my imagination. Hang in there, and you'll see where I'm headed. Just for fun, picture a dance studio just for dental hygienists, a dance studio noted for its superb instruction for two very different dance steps, the Charleston and the waltz.

Picture the Charleston. The dancers have rapid, short, exacting movements that require forceful footwork to execute properly. Hand scaling reminds me of the Charleston, so, in essence, all hygienists know how to do this dance. We've all learned the complicated basic steps.

Waltzing, on the other hand, requires the partners to glide seemingly without effort round and round the dance floor with fluid, smooth steps. In many ways, effective ultrasonic scaling requires the same type of approach. If clinicians use excessive force, the overall effectiveness of the ultrasonic instrument is compromised. In other words, you must use a light touch when using your power scaler. Can you imagine waltzing with Charleston-type footwork? Proper ultrasonic technique is exactly the opposite of hand scaling.

Now, let's get back to the dance studio for an advanced waltz lesson. You know the basic steps, but each new dance partner requires a slightly different technique. Over the past decade, we've all learned to waltz through the sulcus with the newer, universal, thin inserts. They were so much more acceptable to many patients than the old, thick inserts we originally used. Now, we reserve these big, fat tips to remove large chunks of calculus. When the right- and left-angled thin ultrasonic inserts came on the scene, each of us learned to use these mirror-image twins in all the places the universals would never reach.

Our concentration is broken every time we have to stop and rotate the insert in our handpiece to reach every area of complex tooth and root anatomy. Every one of us has longed for an ultrasonic insert or handpiece that would swivel in our fingertips. We all knew that this would make our hands, wrists, and forearms feel better at the end of the day. Manufacturers listened to our ideas, but everyone said that it was not possible. However, hygienists who were faced with the daily risk of repetitive stress injuries continued to be the squeaky wheel, and our concerns made one company take notice.

Drum roll, please. Today's dance lesson brings us a new waltzing partner. Please allow me to introduce Hu-Friedy's newest ultrasonic insert, more properly known as the Satin Swivel™ Ultrasonic insert. I met this insert when it was an infant and followed it through the temperamental teenage years. Now we have a fully mature insert, ready to make our waltz through the sulcus one of the best ergonomic experiences imaginable.

The Satin Swivel™ Ultrasonic insert features a comfortable, large silicone grip, which measures nearly one-half inch in diameter, making this insert's finger grip 21 to 26 percent larger than other ultrasonic inserts that are commercially available. A larger diameter means less pinch/grip for the clinician, which is a definite ergonomic benefit.

The grip is cushy, but with substance, rather than the traditional hard plastic or all-metal hub insert design that was our only choice before. Instead of having to manually reposition the insert with two hands whenever you want to reach a specific area on the tooth, a slight twist of the fingertips puts the insert exactly where you need to be to destroy those periodontal pathogens. This allows us to use our precious scaling time more effectively.

Clinicians who use ultrasonics on a regular basis understand how the weight and drag of the handpiece cord can interfere with our overall comfort and effectiveness. The fluid swivel of this insert all but eliminates this concern. Our scaling time is more productive for our patients and less taxing to our bodies. The flow of our appointment time is improved, and we can scale without the distraction of repositioning the insert tip. Just imagine how much better your wrist, forearm, and entire body will feel at the end of the day.

This insert design is sure to revolutionize ultrasonic scaling. The inserts are available in both 25 K and 30 K formats for all types of automatic and manually tuned magnetostrictive ultrasonic scalers. Initially, Hu-Friedy is offering the Satin Swivel™ inserts in the thin #100 style, the heftier universal #10 design, as well as the #1000 Triple Bend model. Other tip configurations will follow sometime in the future.

It takes practice to learn to do any new dance step well. The same thing goes for learning to scale with the new Hu-Friedy inserts, but you will be amazed at how quickly you will adapt to these excellent inserts. I invite you to learn to waltz through the sulcus in the comfort zone — a dance of a lifetime that just may very well save your career.

Anne Nugent Guignon, RDH, MPH, practices clinical dental hygiene in Houston, Texas. She writes, speaks, and presents continuing- education courses on ergonomics and advanced ultrasonic instrumentation through her company, ErgoSonics (www.ergosonics.com). She can be reached by phone at (713) 974-4540 or by e-mail at anne@ergosonics.com.

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