The happiness of Yankee ingenuity

Sept. 29, 2014
Two dental products stay at forefront of innovation

Two dental products stay at forefront of innovation


When it comes to new products, two things get me really excited: innovation, and products that are made by workers in the United States.

Let's flesh out these two ideas. By definition, innovation involves not only improvement, but also originality. So when innovation is applied to a tried-and-true method or piece of equipment, chances are high that companies will bring forward a product that can do one or more of the following - make our work easier, reduce the risk for developing a cumulative trauma disorder, allow us to provide higher quality diagnostics or patient care, or reduce patients' risk for disease.

Couple innovation with good old "Yankee ingenuity," and I become even happier. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying never consider a product made outside of the United States or North America. If everything else is equal, the few additional pennies spent on a product made in the United States will help bring this country's economy back faster. Imagine the positive impact on communities all across the nation if our purchasing choices kept workers employed and created new jobs.

You can't get much more American than the folks who work for Young Dental, one of the oldest companies in the dental industry. Young Dental was founded in Missouri 114 years ago. When George Richmond purchased the company from his family in 1961, he focused on innovative polishing devices and products. In 1968, he launched the all-metal Triple Seal Prophy Angle with a unique autoclavable design that protected the gears from gritty prophy paste.1

As infection control became a serious topic, Young Dental brought out one of the first disposable prophy angles (DPA) in 1990, and to this day, Young DPAs are the only product made with a screw cup, a feature that eliminates cup wobble and reduces vibration. The new Young Triple Seal angle was the highest rated DPA for reliability and dependability, according to a 1991 research article published in the Journal of Dental Hygiene.2 From that point on, Young Dental focused on developing ingenious products. The contra-angle was introduced four years later. The angled profile allows clinicians to keep their wrists in neutral, even when accessing posterior teeth or complicated anatomy.3

Since one-size-fits-all rarely works in the real world, over the years Young Dental has created a full range of polishing cups and brushes. Never ones to sit on their laurels, Young introduced a latex-free cup in the late 1990s, along with the Turbo Plus cup that features internal spiraling ridges to reduce paste spatter. The petite cup, a new low-profile, full-size cup, joined the lineup in 2000.2 The design, inspired by clinical dental hygienists' requests, fits perfectly into tight spaces. Six years later, the company launched the Elite cup, which has a double-duty design that features both internal and external spiraling ribs that adapt to both the surface being polished and interproximal surfaces. In 2011, the Elite Flex series was introduced. Flex cups are significantly softer, reducing the force needed to adapt to tooth surfaces, a positive ergonomic benefit.

Last year, Young went back to the drawing board and created a brand new angle body called VERA, which stands for visibility, ergonomics, reach, and access. The current VERA is a slimmer, less bulky, right-angle design. Even with miniaturized gears, the VERA is a top performer, producing a quiet, smooth, comfortable polishing experience for both the clinician and patient. VERA's contra counterpart will be available sometime this fall.

In the late 1990s, the Midwest RDH handpiece was the first handpiece designed exclusively for polishing, and it featured significant design improvements based on the ergonomic challenges that dental hygienists face every day. It was balanced and lightweight, and it had a midbody swivel, a great textured surface that limited pinch grip, and a profile that allowed our hands to remain relaxed as we polished. There are now dozens of "me too" corded polishing counterparts on the market that work well, but up until now, something has been missing.

At the 2014 ADHA Annual Session, Young Dental introduced a new polishing handpiece. It does not have a fancy, memorable name, but it carries forth George Richmond's legacy of design innovation. Instead of a straight-line connection with the air hose, the posterior end of the polisher has a slight bend, reminiscent of the revolutionary contra-angle disposable prophy angle introduced in the mid-1990s. The bend changes the weight dynamics of corded polishing. Instead of trying to support the weight of an air hose, the weight is deflected by the bend in the hose connection. The result is more comfortable polishing.

In a recent study, over 50% of all dental hygienists reported that they had developed one or more musculoskeletal disorders through the course of their clinical careers. Thirty-six percent of those injured had problems with their dominant hands. This group also had issues to varying degrees with their fingers, thumbs, forearms, and elbows, body parts directly affected by polishing procedures.5

Over 100 people work at the Young Dental manufacturing facility in Earth City, a suburb of St. Louis, which is also home to the research and development team. Dozens more are based just outside of Chicago in Algonquin and work in customer service, sales and marketing, and product fulfillment for Young Dental and its sister companies. Through the years, the company has kept its focus on innovation without sacrificing quality, it has become known as a pioneer in the polishing world, and it is a partner in keeping our clinical practices safer and improving our comfort zone. RDH


1. Young Innovations, Inc. History. Accessed July 15, 2014.
2. Fleming LS, Barnes CM, et al. An in vivo comparison of commercially available disposable prophylaxis angles. J Dent Hyg (November-December 1991) 65(9).
3. Pheasant S, Haslegrave CM. Bodyspace: anthropometry, ergonomics, and the design of work. Bocca Raton: Taylor and Francis. 2006
4. Guignon AN. Bringing the science of polishing into the treatment room. Dent Equip Mat. Sept/Oct 2003.
5. Guignon AN and Purdy CM. Dental hygiene 2012 - workplace demographics, practice habits, injuries and disorders, academic awareness and professional attitudes. Unpublished data collected October/November 2012.

ANNE NUGENT GUIGNON, RDH, MPH, provides popular programs, including topics on biofilms, power driven scaling, ergonomics, hypersensitivity, and remineralization. Recipient of the 2004 Mentor of the Year Award and the 2009 ADHA Irene Newman Award, Anne has practiced clinical dental hygiene in Houston since 1971.

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