The dental office is not your kitchen! Follow instructions for products

There are right ways to work with dental materials, and there are wrong ways. It's important to follow a product's directions, especially if you're not familiar with it.

Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2018 10 Dental Materials 1

Dental Materials

This article originally appeared in Dental Assisting Digest e-newsletter. Subscribe to this informative monthly ENL designed specifically for the dental assistant here.


For many years, my lead chairside assistant and I evaluated new products and devices for CR Foundation and its monthly publication,
Clinician’s Report. It was a privilege to work with Drs. Gordon and Rella Christensen as field evaluators, and we took our responsibilities very seriously. We set aside time each week to thoroughly read through the manufacturer’s directions before using any new products or devices in the practice.

However, I’ve learned through the years people don’t always follow directions to obtain the optimal results for a given material. When I present programs on dental materials to assistants and hygienists, I get a laugh by showing a series of slides about the wrong way to mix gypsum products. Instead of properly weighing the stone and measuring the water for an optimal mix with predictable properties, I tell them that most busy team members usually just add water from the spigot into an arbitrary quantity of stone scooped from the plaster bin. If the mix is too thin, they just dump more stone into the bowl until the consistency “feels about right.” The audience laughs because they know I’m right!

The abuse of alginate, however, is far worse. Following this same technique—adding water to the powder and mixing until it feels right—has consequences. Those responsible for making alginate impressions (or mixing stone) need to recognize that they’re not mixing Bisquick in their kitchen!

Handled properly, materials provide predictable results. But not handled properly, the clinical team may experience unpleasant surprises that disrupt the practice. Specifically, setting expansion is markedly increased when too much water is added to gypsum, and the dimensional integrity of alginate impressions are similarly destroyed when powder and water are improperly proportioned.

If you’ve ever tried to deliver a hard-acrylic splint (nightguard) and found that it was too tight to be seated, or discovered that a flipper could not be delivered as promised on the day of surgery, check your technique. Ignoring the directions for the proper use of any dental material has consequences.

Don’t let the excuse of being too busy to do things the right way cost the practice time and money or cause embarrassment. After all, doing the same procedure a second time to get the desired result will not please your patients or help build your practice.

Dr Wayne KerrSharing 40 years of clinical and business experience with the dental profession, Wayne Kerr, DDS, earned Mastership in the AGD and was honored in 2011 with its presentation of the Life Long Learning and Service Recognition Award. He is a Fellow of the ACD and ICD, and has been recognized by state and local organizations as Dentist of the Year, Small Business Person of the Year, and Citizen and Professional of the Year.


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