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Jan. 1, 2007
Do you ever think that this would be such a great time to be a kid - to play with all the really cool toys? I do.

By Mary Govoni, RDA, RDH, MBA

Do you ever think that this would be such a great time to be a kid - to play with all the really cool toys? I do. I also fee that way about being a dental assistant. What a great time to be a clinical assistant with so many new products and materials available. I don’t mean to imply that these great products should be thought of as toys, but trying out something new, that makes a task easier and the patient’s experience better can give you that “new toy” feeling. Let’s look at a few of these new products and the enhancements that they can bring to your practice.

Provisional Materials:

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On the top of my list of favorite new products is 3M™ ESPE™’s new Protemp Crown™. This is a composite provisional, which comes as a pre-formed crown that is different from any other pre-formed crown. The composite material is pliable, allowing the user to adapt margins and adjust occlusion prior to light curing the material to harden it. There is no matrix necessary, saving steps and time to provide the patient with an aesthetically pleasing and comfortable temporary crown. It is currently available for single unite - molars and pre-molars, and each comes in a selection of sizes. Although the cost per unit is higher than using other materials in a matrix, the convenience and efficiency will easily compensate for the material’s cost. This is an innovation definitely worth trying.

Alternatives to Alginate:

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What dental assistant doesn’t dread the mixing, clean up, and need to immediately pour up alginate impressions? While these materials have been widely used in dentistry for many years, recent product introductions, include many more alginate alternatives. These products are silicone-based and are much more stable than alginates, allowing for better disinfection and eliminating the need for immediate pour ups to avoid distortion of the resulting model. A very appealing characteristic of these new products is that they are packaged for automatic mixing. The most recent product introduction is Silgimix™ from Sultan Chemists. This alginate replacement material is packaged for use in all automatic mixing machines. Another recent product introduction in this category is AlgiNot from Kerr. Alginot is packaged in cartridges for automix dispensers (guns as we tend to call them), as well as volume/foil packages for use in larger mixers, such as the Kerr Volume Mixer or the 3M™ ESPE™ Pentamix™ automatic mixer. It’s important to note, however, that there are great products in this category that have been available for several years that are also well worth consideration. These include Position Penta™ from 3M™ ESPE™, and StatusBlue® from Zenith Dental/DMG. Position is packaged specifically for the Pentamix, and StatusBlue® is packaged for use in the Zenith Dental/DMG Mix Star automatic mixer, as well as in cartridges for automix guns.

Instrument Packaging:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends packaging of dental instruments prior to sterilization. It further recommends that internal (inside the packaging) controls be inserted into the packages to determine that the steam or chemical vapor actually penetrated the packaging material. This must take place in order for instrument sterilization to occur. The PeelView+ Sterilization Pouches from Dux Dental include such an internal processing indicator already incorporated into the pouch. While this indicator does not take the place of spore testing (biological monitor) a sterilizer, it is an excellent quality assurance measure to determine if each instrument package in each sterilizer load has been subject to the conditions necessary to achieve sterilization.

Digital X-ray Sensor Holders:

I continually hear complaints and challenges that dental assistants face when utilizing digital radiographyt sensors. Patient comfort and ease of placement seem to be the chief complaints. Dentsply’s Eezee-Grip® Digital Sensor Holder from RINN works much like the tried and true Snap-A-Ray. It simplifies positioning and patient comfort and is autoclavable. The RINN XCP-DS® is another device for digital sensors that is based on the widely popular XCP® system for alignment of the x-ray cone. The XCP-DS® system is available for use with most digital x-ray systems.

Pit and Fissure Sealants

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Dental assistants are allowed to perform expanded functions in an increasing number of states, which include restorative and preventive procedures. In many cases the assistants perform these functions alone, as opposed to the doctor performing them with a clinical assistant. This practice makes it very important for assistants to work with materials that provide the most efficiency as well as effectiveness. One of these new products is Enamel Loc™ Self Etching Sealant from Premier. It is a light-cured, tooth colored sealant that requires no additional etching step prior to placement. The tooth is cleaned and dried prior to the placement of the material, which is then light-cured. As with any sealant placement, maintaining a dry tooth is critical to the success of the procedure, which leads us to our next category of product developments.

Isolation Devices:

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Here again are some new devices that can be very helpful to dental assistants. Retracting the tongue is always a challenge, but even more so when working along. Kis Products has introduced a neat little device called Tongue-B-Gone, which attaches onto a saliva ejector or suction tip and provides better access by deflecting and protecting the tongue.

A new version of the Isolite™ System has been introduced and it offers even more advantages than before. Isolite’s™ device has been well known for its ability to provide retraction, suction and illumination. The Newi2™ system uses an LED light source and no longer uses a light box and fiber optic cable. It can be mounted in a bracket, just like an HVE suction device, making it much more convenient to use. For assistants (and hygienists) working alone, this is a must have.

Digital Photography:

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As cosmetic procedures are increasingly requested by patients, the need for digital photographs of patients is also increasing. The use of photographs is absolutely necessary for case presentation and using before and after photos of patients is great for marketing services. Digital photographs are also invaluable for documentation of clinical conditions, as part of the patient’s record. Having said all that, many dental assistants are leery of being responsible for capturing the digital images. I think that some of the reluctance is due to the size and complexity of many digital cameras that are available for dental photography. The new Kodak P712 Dental Digital Photography System is the latest in a well-respected line of dental digital cameras. The new P712 system now features 7.1 megapixels, for even greater resolution than previous models. All of the features of this camera, including the ring flash and close-up lens, are housed in a light-weight, compact camera body. The system is easily learned and user friendly. The system also comes with a docking station/printer for transferring images to a computer and for printing copies of the photographs. The easier and more convenient a camera is to use, the more it tends to be used. In the case of intraoral and extra oral images in dentistry - more is better. Dental assistants will love this camera.

Computer Input Devices for the Treatment Rooms:

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An infection control challenge that many dental assistants struggle with is how to protect the computer keyboards from contamination during treatment. As more practices are converting their clinical records to digital or computerized records, using the computers and input devices such as keyboards is becoming more frequent during dental procedures. Covering the keyboards with plastic or vinyl covers works to prevent contamination, however, it does inhibit speed and dexterity in some cases. Several companies offer washable, water-resistant keyboards that can be used in dental treatment rooms and disinfected after use. These include those from iKey, whose keyboards do not need to be unplugged and removed to be washed and can be wiped down on location with their approved germicidal or bleach solution, and Unotron®, which makes spill resistant and washable keyboards as well as mice, which come in corded or wireless versions.

Unit Dose Packaging:

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While not a specific product, many more materials such as provisional cements, bonding agents and even sealants are available in single dose packaging. This eliminates cross contamination and required disinfection of bulk containers. Optibond™ from Kerr is one of the more recent additions to this category, as is Embrace™ Wet Bond™ sealant material from Pulpdent. The time and efficiency gained from these products is a major stress reliever for dental assistants.

Instrument Lubricant

Do you or your doctor ever get frustrated by composite material that sticks to your instruments - especially when some material sticks to the “non-stick” instruments? If so, check out Danville/Innovative Dental Product’s No Stick Instrument Lube. Placing this material on the tips of the instruments will ensure that no material will stick, and it doesn’t interfere with any of the chemical properties of the composite material, such as bond strength. A great time saver!

Parting Thoughts:

These products have been selected for their relevance to dental assistants, and are certainly not the only new products worth consideration. If you don’t already do it, develop the habit of continually researching new products and product enhancements. Read all the professional publications that come to your office or facility. Participate in local, state and national meetings and trade shows, where products are introduced. Develop relationships with the manufacturer’s representatives and dealer representatives that visit your practice - they are some of your best resources for new product information, samples and demonstrations.

It truly is a great time to be a dental assistant. Take full advantage of everything that your profession has to offer - new toys and all.