Th 209682

Worth a try

May 1, 2006
The mere mention of innovation gets me excited. However, the exhibit halls at big meetings like the Yankee Dental Congress and the Chicago Midwinter are daunting.

The mere mention of innovation gets me excited. However, the exhibit halls at big meetings like the Yankee Dental Congress and the Chicago Midwinter are daunting. Sound bites come hard and fast. Booths at the larger events sell everything from sophisticated digital devices to the latest in hand instruments to freshly roasted nuts. These meetings are crammed full of fresh approaches to everyday dental hygiene practice.

Traveling up and down the aisles, which are packed with other dental professionals, is a feat of endurance for your brain and feet. It’s hard for mere mortals to absorb the details about every new product, piece of research, recent innovation, or improved version of an industry standard.

The ultimate test is to discover a product or idea that will make your day as a dental professional better, easier, more interesting, safer, or more fun.

When visiting a booth, listen to product information, ask questions, try out a product, or watch a demonstration. Even with all of this interaction, it is still a test to absorb the many nuances of every product. Every meeting has a handful of new products or reinvented ideas that are attention grabbers.

The 2006 Yankee and Chicago exhibit halls yielded a mix of very clever products. This year’s finds were developed to answer specific clinical challenges. I’d like to share some special products that I found. Unless otherwise indicated, all products are available through dental supply companies.

Do you give much thought to the kind of gloves that you put on every day, or do you just use whatever is at the office? Gloves may seem simple, but there are a number of issues to consider.

Dentsply's Cavitron Plus
Click here to enlarge image

Health-care professionals have a much higher risk for developing latex sensitivity than the general population. Failure rates vary depending on the type of glove material. Vinyl gloves have the worst record. Research indicates failure rates that vary from 65 to 85 percent. Gloves that rip easily or have a high number of pinpoint holes do not provide adequate barrier protection. The risk of developing a workplace-related cumulative trauma disorder from poorly fitting gloves rounds out the list.

Newer nitrile formulations make it possible to produce a cost effective, ambidextrous non-latex glove that has a good fit, excellent barrier protection, and great tactile sensitivity while preventing hand fatigue and contact dermatitis. The new UltraSense powder-free nitrile glove from Microflex deserves consideration.

The price is competitive without sacrificing comfort or durability. The benefits of this new glove may not be evident the first time you put on a pair, so why not order a box or two and commit to wearing them for a week? You might be very surprised with your decision after a week of clinical use.

Who ever thought that the surface of a mouth mirror would improve? Zirc’s Crystal Mirror is a breakthrough in mirror technology. The image is significantly brighter, and the color of the reflected image is more accurate than traditional rhodium mirrors.

The mirror surface is highly scratch resistant, a real benefit in mirror longevity and increased visual acuity. I intentionally tried to damage the Crystal mirror surface with a sharp explorer and scaler and found it was much harder to scratch a traditional rhodium mirror. This new mirror comes in three designs: an all-resin handle, a silicone-padded handle, or a traditional metal cone socket screw-in mirror head.

Most of us don’t have the luxury of an assistant to help keep areas dry during critical procedures. Traditional cotton rolls can only soak up so much moisture. All of us have had days where it is just impossible to keep things dry. Nothing is more frustrating than to see a giant tidal wave of thin bubbly saliva surging over a freshly etched tooth.

My travels down the exhibit aisles revealed a new inexpensive moisture control device. The Tongue ‘n Cheek pad is a perfect answer. The pads are soft, pliable and contain a food-grade, super-absorbent gel, which can soak up to eight times more fluid than a standard cotton roll. The pad is kind to delicate soft tissues. Try a simple test. Place a cotton roll in one side of your mouth and a Tongue ‘n Cheek pad in the other and experience its effectiveness and comfort first hand.

While we’re still on the subject of moisture control, let’s talk about saliva ejectors. Traditional disposable plastic models are not that comfortable. The end digs into soft tissue as soon as the suction is turned on.

Zirc has inexpensive dark blue foam cushions that fit snugly over the end

of a standard saliva ejector, preventing soft tissue injury without compromising suction ability. The saliva ejector cushion is not a new idea but the diameter if this device and the type of foam keeps the cushion in place during an entire procedure. Patient comfort zooms up with this simple device.

Every one of us has a patient or two who find it difficult to keep their mouth open during a procedure. Some patients also suffer from TMD fatigue or soreness after just a few moments in the dental chair. The most common solution is a bite block, but these are uncomfortable for many patients and are difficult to work around during full-mouth procedures.

There is a new solution to this age-old dilemma - the HYT mouth prop. One end of the HYT hooks over the lower anterior teeth. The patient holds a heart-shaped grip that keeps his or her mouth open comfortably during the procedure. No more gagging and the patient’s hands are occupied, out of the working field, and they maintain control. The HYT is available at

How do you feel when patients just don’t get it? You know exactly what I mean. A patient sits down and opens his or her mouth, revealing teeth so heavily coated with plaque biofilm that it’s reminiscent of a heavy, wet, six-inch snowfall. Your patient smiles, thinking everything is fine and proudly announces how hard he or she is working to keep his or her mouth clean. What a communication challenge!

Disclosing solutions have been around for years, but, quite honestly, most patients don’t like the red dyes. Traditional disclosing solutions do tell the story, but leave behind telltale red marks all over the soft tissue.

In the early 1970s, there was a special lighted mirror called the Plak Lite. A fluorescent, yellow dye stained plaque biofilm but not the soft tissue, making every speck of biofilm light up. Kids thought it was cool and adults didn’t complain. Through the years, this product has come and gone.

Butler’s Plak Check system is the fourth generation of this unique product. Special single-use, disposable applicators make it easy to apply the unique yellow dye without cross contamination between patients. The new cordless, battery-operated lighted mirror is compact, easy to use, and really gets the point across in a nonjudgmental way. It’s nice to see that this marvelous education tool is available again.

Cordless technologies are everywhere - cell phones, remote controls, wireless headsets, and optical mice are perfect examples of engineering ingenuity. The typical dental hygiene treatment room is covered with a mass of cords that limit how and where we use a device.

The new Dentsply Cavitron Plus has a unique wireless foot control. It is about the diameter and shape of a round rheostat. Depressing any portion of this cordless device activates the scaler or boost control. In addition to the foot control, the unit comes with special color-coded, autoclavable, medical-grade silicone grips that slide over the traditional handpiece, resulting in an enlarged, cushioned grip. According to the company, this grip will fit all Cavitron Sterimate handpieces.

It becomes very easy to practice the same way, day after day. Your mind can drift off when everything becomes routine. If you find yourself thinking about what you’re going to do for the weekend, which program to watch tonight, or when to get a new outfit, fun toy or household upgrade, try refocusing on the job at hand - taking great care of patients.

We owe it to them and ourselves to stay sharp and keep up with new products, concepts, and innovations. Just try one new idea in your clinical setting. This will make your professional comfort zone so much less stressful!