What is an Ultrasonic Scaler?
If you are a regular patient here at McLoughlin Dental Care, then you will know that our dentist, Dr. Donald Nimz highly recommends that everyone has their teeth professionally cleaned by our experienced dental hygienists. Most people need hygiene treatments every six months, but the exact frequency of your hygiene visits is based on your specific dental health.
The idea of a hygiene treatment is to disrupt bacterial plaque biofilms which attach themselves to the surfaces of your teeth and any exposed tooth roots every day. Most plaque biofilm is removed through daily brushing and flossing, but if you miss certain areas of your teeth which is almost inevitable, then the plaque biofilm hardens into calculus or tartar. Calculus is a calcified bacterial product that is extremely hard which is why it must be removed by a qualified dental hygienist or by a dentist.
Traditionally a hygienist will clean teeth manually, using a special instrument to hand-scale or gently scrape your teeth. However, we want to ensure our patients receive the very best dental care using the most advanced technologies which is why we prefer an ultrasonic scaler in combination with hand instruments when needed.
Why Use an Ultrasonic Scaler and How Do They Work?
An ultrasonic scaler allows our hygienist to thoroughly remove calculus from your teeth in a way that is very gentle, producing minimal or no damage to your teeth and tooth roots which is critical. Part of the purpose of a hygiene treatment is to leave your tooth surfaces nice and smooth, because the smoother the surface, the harder it is for plaque biofilms to re-attach themselves.
Ultrasonic scalers use ultrasound to remove calculus deposits from your teeth more effectively. They work mechanically using high vibrational energy that effectively blasts calculus, so it is easier to remove. Ultrasonic scalers also create shock waves that disrupt bacteria biofilms so that the plaque bacteria and calculus can be therapeutically flushed from the teeth by a small jet of water or antibacterial mouthwash which is emitted from near the top of the scaler. The jet of water helps to cool the tip of the ultrasonic scaler and is highly effective at helping to flush away debris from the tooth being treated. The turbulent action caused by the vibrating tip of the ultrasonic scaler also causes some of the water to break into lots of tiny bubbles. These bubbles help to disrupt, and rupture bacteria and they create an oxygenated environment that is more hostile to harmful anaerobic or oxygen-hating bacteria.
Initially ultrasonic scalers were used to only remove calculus deposits on tooth surfaces visible in the mouth, but they can also be used sub-gingivally, meaning they can remove calculus deposits from just below the gum line, cleaning the surfaces of tooth roots without damaging them. While your teeth are covered in a hard layer of enamel, your tooth roots are covered in something called cementum which is much softer than enamel and more easily damaged, so it’s vital that any calculus on your tooth roots is gently removed. Ultrasonic scalers can be especially beneficial if you have any signs of gum disease.
What Are the Benefits of Using an Ultrasonic Scaler When Gums Are Infected?
The infection and inflammation of gum disease can cause what are called periodontal pockets or gum pockets which are spaces in between your teeth and gums as your gums recede and begin to pull away from your teeth. Ultrasonic scalers are easily as effective as manual instruments for removing calculus in shallow gum pockets, but if you have any pockets greater than 4 mm, then they are significantly more effective.
Using an ultrasonic scaler can be particularly helpful if you require more frequent cleanings to control gum disease. Often treatment may be quicker than using manual instruments to complete the same job. Ultrasonic scalers have small tips and require very little pressure to be effective, so you should find treatment is more comfortable. The action of an ultrasonic scaler is gentler to tooth structure which is especially important when frequent cleanings are needed. The smaller tips of an ultrasonic scaler can be more effective at cleaning under challenging nooks and crannies, helping to eliminate more disease-causing bacteria.
Are There Any Contraindications When Using Ultrasonic Scalers?
If you have a pacemaker, then it’s important to let our dental team know before treatment begins because some ultrasonic scalers may affect pacemakers. However, most modern pacemakers are shielded, and this is merely a precaution to make sure you are kept entirely safe during treatment.
People who have especially sensitive teeth or teeth that are newly erupted, or whose teeth are sensitive to temperature changes may prefer their teeth are more traditionally hand scaled. If you are not sure whether your teeth are sensitive, then don’t worry, because we will regularly check on you during treatment and if you feel any discomfort, you can stop any treatment at any time simply by raising your hand.
It’s likely that we will clean around any composite or porcelain restorations or any dental implants manually, or else we will use a specially designed tip for the ultrasonic scaler to ensure these restorations aren’t scratched or damaged in any way.
An ultrasonic scaler is another valuable tool in our arsenal, helping us to fight disease-causing bacteria more effectively. We generally use ultrasonic scalers in combination with traditional hand instruments, blending the use of both tools to provide you with a more comfortable treatment, potentially shorter treatment time and the very best clinical outcome.
The Importance of Regular Hygiene Treatments
Regular dental hygiene treatments are essential for healthy teeth and gums, and we thoroughly recommend that you visit our hygienist as frequently as suggested in your preventative dental care plan. By removing all hardened plaque or calculus from your teeth and any exposed tooth roots, we can help your gums to remain stronger and healthier and free from disease. At the same time, this straightforward treatment helps to protect your general health because gum disease has been associated with numerous serious health problems including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and dementia. Afterward, your teeth will look brighter, and your mouth will feel fresher, and you should be good to go for another six months.