Back in the Black

Oct. 1, 2008
Black absorbs light perfectly. In January, researchers at a New York institute introduced a material that was claimed to be the darkest substance known.

by Karen Kaiser, RDH

Black absorbs light perfectly. In January, researchers at a New York institute introduced a material that was claimed to be the darkest substance known. This dark matter is created from cylindrical carbon molecules that reflect an infinitesimal percent of light and absorb 30 times more light than the current standard of "blackness." The color is perceived as "looking black" when visible light does not reach the eye and pigments absorb the light rather than reflect any light. In dentistry, black is found as the dominant color of products ranging from bacterial removal to hand protection.

In a profession attuned to having a clean and sterile environment, the "hygienic" color that first comes to mind is white. Black is seen as the opposite of white and erroneously perceived as being unclean or unhygienic. Regardless, bla*ck may be a perfect option and possess some very positive attributes for dental products.

For example, when patients use typical floss, blood and any discolored, disease-causing bacteria are plainly visible on the pale floss threads. Although this visible evidence of the plaque-eliminating process is obvious, some patients cringe at the sight of this rank remnant removal.

Studies consistently demonstrate how interproximal plaque removal has overall healthy benefits and is necessary for tissue health. Therapies that make the patient more apt to wrap the floss on the fingers are advantageous. For those who shy away from flossing because of seeing blood and other debris, floss is available that both disguises and makes visible the unsightly debris. The floss is offered by POH. The company's Percept floss has black filaments. Blood on the black floss is not easily seen; bulky plaque accumulations, however, may be more visible on the black floss when it appears to vanish on white floss. The Percept floss is available in NoWax™ or LiteWax™ varieties to suit the needs of the flosser.

Along the same line, how about a black-handled toothbrush with darker bristles, or an orange handle with black bristles to remove biofilm? Tess Corporation offers these varieties that are perfect for dropping in a trick-or-treat bag.

Black may also be seen as an academic color. Graduates wear formal caps and gowns, commonly worn in black colors. Some dental products contain ingredients that encourage remineralization. One ingredient that renews enamel is Novamin. Novamin helps to reverse damage from bacteria, erosive acid in foods, and zealous abrasive brushing by making available calcium and phosphorous mineral ions to assist tooth repair. Novamin is found in products for use by the clinician chairside, as well as recommended products for at-home delivery. Dr. Collins' products, which is packaged in stately black-and-white packaging, has one such home-care product that incorporates Novamin particles into the paste and is safely used daily. Restore™ toothpaste is a fluoride-free paste that uses Novamin's natural ions to revitalize tooth structure. The super-charged particles are released for hours afterwards, benefiting the surface of the tooth by remaining to help the tooth mend naturally.

Dr. Collins has a lineup of therapeutic products. One such product that contains the benefits of xylitol is the All White Whitening toothpaste. The paste uses peroxide in a minty formula to remove stain. Dr. Collins has floss aptly named Waxed Dental Work Floss. The floss is easy to insert and, as one flosses, it feels as though the floss becomes almost sticky while grabbing and lifting interproximal bacteria. This floss has very little give but has distinctive fanning filaments to remove plaque very effectively.

Black is a prestigious color. From a classy, black stretch limousine to a judge wearing the dark robe in a courtroom, black makes a statement. When you desire to make a statement with hand instrumentation, look to colored handles that are available in black resin. American Eagle has a lightweight resin and stainless steel handle, the EagleLite, which offers colored ends (with an available choice in black). The instrument allows the clinician the opportunity to more easily identify different instruments and group them accordingly.

Premier Dental has a black instrument used for implants. This instrument is carbon plastic and autoclavable. Because it is a plastic tool, it will not scratch or damage the titanium implant. Even though the instrument is a high carbon plastic material and does not have a steel working end, it still has the ability to be resharpened when it dulls.

For formal occasions, black is often worn as a tailored tuxedo to black-tie functions. To look stylish in the operatory, protect your patients' eyes from airborne spit and splatter with the AllPro company's Protect-A-Lens (P.A.L.). This protective eyewear (in clear or tinted smoke colors) is simply rolled from an individual package and clings by tension to the patient's head and over the eyes with no need of ear loops. The glasses are disposable, and they may be sent home with the patient.

Black is traditionally seen with milestone birthdays. Over-the-hill parties, for example, are often decorated using black balloons and crepe paper. When someone in your office celebrates "the big one," why not have some fun and propose all of the team wear black gloves during patient care! Black gloves are often worn by tattoo artists, but the gloves are available to the dental team as well. Mydent Company offers the Black Jack exam glove. These black gloves are textured, powder-free, and available in five hand sizes. Microflex Company also has a new nitrile glove in black known as the MidKnight glove. One advantage of donning black gloves is blood on the fingers is not easily seen by the squeamish patient.

Several dental products used daily are available in black. When the occasion calls for sleek and classy, consider selecting the darker shade. From eye and hand protection to oral care items, black is back and darker than ever.

The author did not receive compensation for products mentioned. Visit the web for info on these products at,,,, .com,,,, and

About the Author

Karen Kaiser, RDH, graduated from St. Louis' Forest Park dental hygiene program in 1994 and currently practices at the Center for Contemporary Dentistry in Columbia, Ill. She has written several articles for RDH and other publications, sits on dental hygiene panels, and is an evaluator for Clinical Research Associates. She can be contacted at [email protected].