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How often do you sharpen?

Hi! I work in an office where the hygienists are responsible for sharpening our instruments. The only thing is every time we start sharpening we get get looks and eventually get talked to because apparently we are sharpening too much/too often.

The problem is that we can see up to 11-12 adult patients a day.
The instruments are upwards of 8 years old

we have about 20 sets; sickle, 1/2 and 11/12 & 13/14. I was maybe able to sharpen 2-3 a day and maybe twice a week.
We have 6 cavitron tips. (Not sure of the age)

Do offices/hygienists have a system in place?

I don’t know how to explain to the DMD how important having sharp instruments are, He will listen half way and start to talk before I’m finished. I just don’t get my point across.



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Author Note:
2 full-time hygienists (5 days/ 8-12 pt/day) And a part time hygienist (2-3 days same amount of pts)

5 Answers

Many factors go into how often to sharpen. A great article I found (which may also help you explain to your DDS): http://www.rdhmag.com/articles/print/volume-28/issue-4/feature/instrument-replacement-how-when-amp-why.html

Also, the typical lifespan of a stainless steel instrument is 6-12 months. So it appears that you are long over due for new set-ups! When instruments become as old as the ones you are using, instrument breakage becomes an issue. It’s not fun to dig out a broken tip from a patient’s sulcus! Plus with a worn out instrument, you are working harder and burnishing calculus.

As far as ultrasonic tips, when you order new ones, they tend to come with a guide that you lay the tips on to measure how worn they are and let you know when they need replacing. When they are overly worn, they are less effective. Many people make the mistake of throwing this guide away; keep it!

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I try to sharpen as often as I can. If I have a no show or an few minutes before my next patient I will try to sharpen. I always have a stone available during the appointment if I need to use it. As with my cavitron tips, I have a guide that I compare the tip against. If it needs to be replaced I order a new tip. When I get the new tip in, it is quite amazing how much better it works than the ones that are now 25% less effective.

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I measure our cavitron tips every 3 months and reorder as necessary. I place a yellow band on new ones and a green band on tips that are close to being worn out based on the guide. We have 3 hygienists and probably 20 tips if various sizes. As far as instrument sharpening, I use gold instruments that do not need sharpening, check them for sharpness regularly and they last quite a while before needing replacement. We each have 8 of our own trays. The other hygienists sharpen their instruments often, during down time.

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We use cassettes in our office.. we have 10 setups total.. im there four days and we have two part time RDH’s (1.5 days each).. im the only one that sharpens, so I’ve developed my own system. I sharpen on wednesdays when im the only RDH and mark each cassette with a “x” on the outside of the wrapper and sharpen before each pt for the day.. we see one pt an hour.. I get replacement instruments once a year 🙁 I would prefer more often

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I have 5 sets of instruments for my room. I usually sharpen them about every month or so. It’s usually when I have time, like an opening in my schedule. I’ll nail all five sets out at once, put a color ring on the mirror to remind myself which ones got sharpened (in case I don’t get to them all..sometimes that happens). I’ll then put a reminder on my phone calender to notify me in one month to do it again.
Once in a blue moon, I’ll sharpen chairside, but I don’t like doing this so much, because it raises the pt’s anxiety.

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