Getting comfortable with the piezoelectric scaler

Aug. 19, 2022
Does the sight of a piezoelectric power scaler send you into a cold sweat? There was a time the author felt this way too, but no more—read (and watch) how she learned to become friends with the piezo.

You may find yourself landing a great new job or temping in an office where you find a piezoelectric power scaler sitting on your counter. Years ago, this would have sent me into a cold sweat. In school I had only used a piezoelectric during a skills pass-off session, and on maybe two patients. Magnetostrictive power scalers had my heart. 

The magnetostrictive was the first power scaler I was introduced to, and I loved it. I had been hand-scaling exclusively up to that point in my dental hygiene education, and the power scaler was a miracle. I experienced more satisfaction as that calculus came flying off, all with less stress on my body.

While I loved the magnetostrictive, I was intimidated by the bulk of the piezoelectric. I was intimidated by possibly using the wrong side of the instrument. I was intimidated by the wrench! How do I assemble this thing without slicing myself open? Have any of you felt the same way? Now, I don’t have those worries. I feel confident to use either the piezoelectric or the magnetostrictive. This is how I became friends with the piezo, and I hope it can help you, too.

Also from Hygiene Edge:

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How to scale a crown


When I was hired as a clinical educator, one of my responsibilities was to evaluate how a student performs a skill. I felt it a responsibility to get to know the piezoelectric power scaler to a greater depth. Being in the position of an educator was the push I needed to understand the piezo. You may not need the same push. It was important to me to be able to explain how the piezoelectric works and is used. I could then teach with confidence that the tip moves in a linear pattern, moving from side to side. The “aha” moment I had here was, because it moves linearly, you adapt this like you would a universal curet, keeping the last 2mm snug against the tooth. This movement is powered by a crystalline (ceramic or quartz) disc, which expands then contracts to create vibrations in the tip. Many patients prefer this, as it doesn’t have as much vibration as the magnetostrictive counterpart. 


I had the opportunity to go on a humanitarian trip where we saw patients with generalized heavy calculus. We saw 10 patients a day who needed some serious power scaler use and the only power scaler we had was … you guessed it, the piezoelectric.


I make sure that when I have access to a piezo, I use it. When you don’t use a skill often, it then becomes less comfortable to use. I also make sure I watch a refresher video before I try a skill I haven't used in a while. Take a look at our video on how to use a piezoelectric power scaler; it can keep you from breaking out into a cold sweat.

Hygiene Edge was created by three dental hygiene educators who love both dentistry and education. With more than 40 years of experience both in the education space and in the dental field, Melia Lewis, Jessica Atkinson, and Shelley Brown love sharing their knowledge online through helpful, short videos, speaking, and working with amazing companies. You can find more information at Hygiene Edge, on YouTube, and Instagram (@hygieneedge). Have a question or a tricky area? Let us know! We’d love to help.

About the Author

Jessica Atkinson, MEd, BSDH, RDH

Jessica Atkinson, MEd, BSDH, RDH, has 20 years of dental experience ranging from pulling charts as a sophomore in high school to brushing Filipino children's teeth after a typhoon. She has a passion for education and access to care, currently teaches at Utah Tech University in St. George, UT, and is one of the trio of Hygiene Edge. She can be reached at [email protected] and would love to chat dentistry with you all day!