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How often should I be sharpening my instruments?

I started full time at a new office and I am a new grad. The hygienist I replaced sharpened her instruments once a month. I feel that is not nearly enough but I know that they don’t like ordering new instruments often and I 1) don’t want to wear them down very quickly by oversharpening and 2) don’t want to anger anyone by sharpening more than the previous hygienist and in turn look bad

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1 Answer

Good question, but a tough question! How often to sharpen depends on many variables like how many setups you have, the amount and difficulty of patients you see, the quality of your instruments, etc. Studies have shown that after 15 strokes of an instrument it begins to dull/show wear. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3897505).
Using this figure, you may need to sharpen at least once per week or so. I’m not saying you need to sharpen your instruments after only 15 strokes, but it does give some insight. Basically, if you feel you are having to apply more pressure for an effective stroke, its time to sharpen. Checking instruments on an acrylic test stick to see if the instrument “sticks” or catches the edge, is a good way to test if your instruments are sharp too.
I understand your concern about not wanting to wear your instruments too quickly. That’s a valid concern. However, don’t compare yourself to the previous hygienist. Just because someone does something one way, doesn’t mean its necessarily the correct way.
I must also mention that stainless steel instruments last between 9-18 months, depending on the above-mentioned variables. To provide the best care for your patients, and to avoid musculoskeletal injury to yourself, you need functioning and not worn out instruments. Any office you work at needs to provide you proper instruments (and equipment) to do your job properly. Otherwise, you are working harder, not smarter and to an office, time is money. Food for thought!

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