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When Is It Time to Replace Instruments?

Ask the Expert ForumCategory: Instrument SharpeningWhen Is It Time to Replace Instruments?
Avatarguestuser Staff asked 7 years ago

Dear Ms. Scaramucci,
For the last 10 years I have been working in a high paced pediatric office. There are typically 2-3 hygienists working at one time, patients every 1/2 hour, patients ages range from 2 to 42 (many special needs patients.) We received new instruments 5 years ago. For the first 2-3 years we used hand held stones to shaprpen. But, in the past year I have been using a green stone bur. I feel I have developed a great technique with minimal wear to the instrument. However, I have had to sharpen frequently which I believe is due to the fact that the instruments are old. My employer and his wife (a hygienist) believe it”s due to the green stone bur. Do you have information to support when it”s time to change instruments? And do you have information on the green stone sharpening technique- pros and cons?

I am disheartened with my employer and his lack of appreciation. I am a professional and am always looking for better options. Please help.

Thank you,
Maureen Wusaty

1 Answers
Mary Kaye Scaramucci, RDH, MSMary Kaye Scaramucci, RDH, MS Staff answered 1 year ago

Dear Maureen,
Whether instruments are new or old, the need for sharpening is based on use and is not related to the sharpening method. From what you describe as the practice setting, I”m not surprised by your need to sharpen frequently. Several things can be occuring such as:

  1. If the instruments are not rotated back to the same operatory or same hygienist, you may be sharpening the other hygienists instruments along with yours. Also if the other hygienists are not sharpening their instruments on a regular basis, then it does require a significant reduction in metal to get an extremely dull instrument sharp.
  2. Some of the older metals may have dulled slightly during the sterilizing process, but I don”t think that is the case as your instruments are fairly new.
  3. Green burs sharpen instruments quickly and can reduce the working end much quicker than hand held stones if too much pressure is applied. However it sounds like you are aware of your technique and keep the pressure to a minimum.

Unfortunately, there is no single formula for the need to sharpen or replace instruments as it will vary from practice to practice and is soley based on use. Examine your instruments carefully to see if they are thinning across the face of the blade or thinning from face to back. As instruments thin in those areas, the risk of breaking becomes greater.

One suggestion I can make is to investigate the new blade technology that is being used by some instrument companies. There is a process during manufacturing that keeps the edge sharp for a longer period of time. It will cost a few more dollars per instrument, but it may save money in the long run as you may not need to replace instruments as frequently. I feel your frustration, yet there is no easy answer. I guess instruments can be like shoes… wear depends on frequency of use!