The sharpest tool in the box

Give yourself the edge in patient care and productivity – your patients will thank you for it! So says George Black, Managing Director of DenMat UK.

While many hygienists may choose ultrasonic scaling as their primary debridement tool, hand instruments still have a crucial role to play in the majority of oral health treatments including the removal of plaque and calculus and in periodontal therapy. Considered just as effective as ultrasonic scaling, manual scaling can have an advantage when removing minor accumulations of plaque and for cleaning demineralised areas of teeth prone to cavities. Without connection to a power source they’re also the preferred option for patients with pacemakers.

The sharpness of hand instruments is a key factor in preventing hand fatigue and excessive instrumentation and the most efficient and thorough scaling, especially on infected root surfaces, can only be achieved with the highest quality and sharpest instruments. Quite simply, sharp instruments enhance productivity and help provide a better patient experience – and dull instruments do not!

Sharper hand instruments equate to:

  • Superior instrument control
  • Fewer strokes and less pressure to remove deposits
  • Increased tactile sensitivity
  • Reduced treatment time resulting in a more efficient workflow
  • Less fatigue and discomfort for both the operator and the patient

With the rise in reported cases of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and repetitive strain injuries, sharper instruments allow hygienists to apply less pressure to remove stubborn deposits, thus decreasing the symptoms and side-effects of tired hands and wrists.

With use, even the sharpest of instruments will dull over time. If you find your instruments are not ‘grabbing and biting’ as easily and seem to require more hand pressure for efficacy in your procedures, then it’s probably time to check your instrument’s sharpness. Bevels, pits and excess metal deposits are the fundamental reasons as to why some instruments seem to dull faster than others.

There are two common methods of checking instrument sharpness:

  • Using a plastic test stick: applying the cutting edge of the instrument to the stick to evaluate its grab or bite. If the instrument does not take hold or requires additional pressure to grab or bite, the instrument needs sharpening.
  • Using a bright light, examining the instrument’s cutting edge for reflection. If light reflects off the edge the instrument needs sharpening.

Always clean and autoclave instruments before sharpening and again before starting treatment to remove any minute particles of dust and debris hidden in fine scratches and to eliminate any risk of cross-infection.

Manual sharpening

The sharpening of scalers and curettes is commonly performed by hand using sharpening stones which come in a variety of grits and sizes. Always ensure during manual sharpening there is a good source of light in the working area and that the stone is completely stable. While coarser stones may sharpen the instrument faster, they can leave a rough edge, so it is recommended to finish with a fine stone and check the edge under magnification to ensure it is smooth and clean.

Professional sharpening

For busy hygienists finding time for checking and sharpening instruments may not be a practical option or something they are not really comfortable doing. Along with other instruments such as scissors, periodontal knives, elevators, peritomes and wire cutters that also need to be routinely sharpened why not get someone else to do it for you by using a professional sharpening service?

Giving you the edge

Ultimately the sharpness of hand instruments comes down to the quality of their manufacture. Hartzell instruments are the sharpest around with no rough edges or bevels and maintain their edge after many uses thanks to the micro-grain structure of the stainless steel used in their construction. Hartzell’s special heat-treating process ensures that once sharpened, the instrument will maintain sharpness longer than most other instruments out there. Our goal is to make sure the working edges of all our instruments help you to perform quality and efficient dentistry.

To find out more about Hartzell instruments contact DenMat UK today on 0844 775 0779, email or visit