Differing opinions about sharpening instruments

Jan. 27, 2006
Expert confirms that sharpening "restores the preciseness of a cutting edge."


Dear RDH eVillage:

I am a big believer in sharpening instruments! I have found in my new profession that many offices don't have sharp instruments. At one office that I am at, and share with another hygienist, I have requested that she please occasionally sharpen our instruments. She told the dentist that she basically isn't going to because instruments can be over-sharpened and at one office she was at in the past the cost of retipping was a problem for the dentist. I understand that you certainly can sharpen too much and not sharpen an instrument right, but dull instruments? I have a hard time removing calculus with a dull instrument. What is your opinion?

Reply from Lil Caperila, RDH, MEd:

If you use your instruments to scale and root plane, you are wearing the edge in very uneven patterns. Sharpening not only restores the preciseness of a cutting edge but it also restores the ORIGINAL design of that instrument (when sharpened properly). IF you don't sharpen an instrument at all or very little, that instrument will no longer perform as it was intended to.

Instruments that wear from "aggressive sharpening" is due to extensive, unnecessary pressure during each attempt. This will definitely wear the instrument out quickly and become costly to a practice. That's why consistency in pressure and technique is key!

Lil Caperila, RDH, MEd, is a licensed dental hygienist currently employed as University Sales Manager for Premier Dental Products Company in Plymouth Meeting, Pa. Lil has spent 32 years in dentistry as an expanded functions dental assistant, clinical dental hygienist and periodontal co-therapist, educator and professional seminar presenter. She graduated with her bachelor's degree from Thomas Jefferson University in 1989 and recently completed her master's degree in education ¿ instructional design and training from Penn State University in 2004.