Dental Scalers: Clearing Up The Confusion
Dental professionals are presented with a wide range of dental scaling options. What are the differences between those options? If you have ever wondered, read on to find out.
The Two Ultrasonic Scaler Choices
Dental ultrasonic scalers come in two different varieties: piezo and magnetostrictive.
Piezo Ultrasonic Scalers
Piezo scalers are the most recent development in dental ultrasonic scaling technology and use stacks of ceramic discs inside the scaler handpiece to vibrate the handpiece’s tip. The number of times each tip vibrates per second is called the scaler’s frequency. Piezo scalers generally operate at a frequency of around 32 to 35 kHz but some operate at even higher frequencies
Consensus among dental professionals is that piezo tips tend to rotate in a linear motion during ultrasonic vibration, though the design of the tip itself can affect this motion.
This linear motion means that Piezo scalers can be more technique-sensitive, since the scaler needs to stay parallel to each tooth’s surface to avoid damaging the tooth with the scaler tip. But when operated correctly, these scalers are generally considered to be gentler on teeth than magnetostrictive scalers.
Most piezo scalers require tips that are custom-designed for each brand. Inserts for magnetostrictive scalers will not work in piezo scalers.
The quartz crystal in piezo scalers does not generate a lot of heat during operation, so these types of scalers require less water irrigation. However, because they do not generate as much heat, the colder water irrigation they produce may cause discomfort to patients with teeth that are sensitive to cold.
Magnetostrictive Ultrasonic Scalers
Magnetostrictive scalers have been around for many years and use inserts instead of tips, though the two are similar. These types of scalers use a stack of nickel alloy strips in the end of the insert itself to vibrate the insert. These scalers generally vibrate in an elliptical motion, but again it is important to mention that the shape of the insert can change the shape of the motion during vibration. Dentsply’s well-known Cavitron is one example of a magnetostrictive ultrasonic scaler.
Magnetostrictive scalers operate at either 25kHz or 30kHz. Most of these scalers require inserts that match their frequencies. As stated above, tips from piezo scalers will not work in them. Between the 25kHz inserts and the 30kHz inserts, usually referred to as simply 25K or 30K, the 30K inserts are usually quieter.
So, here are the most important things to remember about dental scalers:
- There are two main types of ultrasonic scalers: piezo and magnetostrictive.
- Piezo ultrasonic scalers use tips in their handpieces, magnetostrictive scalers use inserts.
- Inserts do not work with piezo scalers, and tips do not work with magnetostrictive scalers.
- Inserts come in 25K or 30K varieties and most magnetostrictive scalers only work with one or the other.
One final piece of information: Though the vibration mechanism in the end of magnetostrictive scalers is technically referred to as an insert, in many settings it is often causally referred to as a tip.
We admit that we at Atlas are sometimes also guilty of using the term “tip” incorrectly when describing the ultrasonic dental scalers we sell, but once you see our low prices I think you’ll forgive us. Check them out and save some money.