Pregnancy and ultrasonic scalers

June 24, 2005
Reader who is ready to start a family wonders how concerned she should be in using ultrasonic scalers.

The ultrasonic scaler in our practice is not to be used on pregnant women. What is the contraindication? I'm planning to start a family next year. Is there an ultrasonic available that I can use daily that won't affect the fetus?

Response from Anne Nugent Guignon, RDH, MPH: This is a common question and concern for many dental practitioners. At this point in time there are no known contraindications for either a pregnant clinician or a patient with respect to any type of ultrasonic dental scaler. Dr. S. Bhaskar, a periodontist who lectures extensively on ultrasonic scaling, recommends that these devices not be used on pregnant patients, however there is no known research to substantiate his recommendation.

In response to these concerns, several companies that manufacturer ultrasonic dental scalers have included cautionary statements with their products. However, they freely state that these recommendations are based on eliminating the possibility of litigation, not on sound medical research. If you are concerned about these issues, I suggest that you consult with the patient's physician concerning the advisability of ultrasonic scaling.

There are a number of important reasons why ultrasonic scalers are so beneficial. First, magnetostrictive and piezoelectric ultrasonic scalers are the most effective devices for disrupting plaque biofilm. Periodontal disease is a biofilm-based infection. There is compelling research that links periodontal disease to premature labor and delivery and low birth-weight babies so the use of an ultrasonic scaler is warranted in treating pregnant patients.

In addition, pregnant women are at higher risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Properly used contemporary ultrasonic scalers contribute to a safer ergonomic workplace. Your health, your patient's health, and your baby's health all have to be taken into consideration. Good luck with your family plans!

Anne Nugent Guignon, RDH, MPH, is an international speaker, has published numerous articles, and authored several textbook chapters. Her popular programs include ergonomics, patient comfort, burnout, and advanced diagnostics and therapeutics. Recipient of the 2004 Mentor of the Year Award, Anne is an ADHA member and has practiced clinical dental hygiene in Houston, Texas, since 1971. You can reach her at [email protected] or (713) 974-4540 and her Web site