Sharpening your performance

Sharp instruments are essential for thorough scaling and root planing; they allow you to work faster and procedures are safer because less force is needed.

Less force also results in less fatigue to the clinician and more comfort for the patient. Sharp instruments improve the quality of your care.       

What are the properties of an ideal sharpening stone?

The ideal sharpening stone has an appropriate and consistent grit. But what is appropriate?

A fine grit stone is preferred by many clinicians, both experienced and novice.

A fine grit stone is recommended for those learning the art of sharpening because improper sharpening with a coarser stone can quickly ruin an instrument.

On the other hand, with a medium grit stone, skilled sharpeners can rapidly create a sharp edge.  But, will a rougher edge result from the use of a medium grit stone?

Yes, but this is of little consequence as will be explained below.

The ideal sharpening stone is durable, resistant to chipping and breaking. It is autoclavable so it can be used chair side. It is non-porous.Almost all synthetic stones are porous and absorb large amounts of water which often contains contaminants.

Finally, the optimal sharpening stone incorporates design features that guide the sharpening process and, at the same time, reduce common sharpening errors.     

What are the common errors made when sharpening curettes and scalers?

Creation of an improper bevel: 

·       A bevel that is too upright will not create enough clearance. If, during a sharpening stroke, the bottom of the blade contacts the root surface it prevents the functional edge of the blade from engaging the root surface.
·       If the bevel is too severe, the blade will be too delicate, thus weak, and will dull easily.

Alteration of blade shape:

·       Curettes are frequently sharpened to a point. Improper blade shape leads to root
surface damage.

Insufficient sharpening:

·       Instruments need to be just as sharp for the last tooth treated as they are for the first.  The ability to sharpen chair side eliminates the need of having duplicate instruments on your tray.  Wouldn’t it be easier to sterilise a sharpening stone with each tray set-up and sharpen as needed?  Not only will your instruments be constantly sharp, you will eliminate an unwelcome pile of dull instruments to sharpen at the end of the day.  

What are the principals of a good sharpening technique?

·       Reproducible: a good sharpening technique needs to be reproducible, from day to day and from operator to operator.  This makes sharpening easier and better preserves instrument life.
·       Easy and efficient: a sharpening technique needs to be user friendly and easily taught to others.
·       Sufficient coarseness is needed for efficient instrument sharpening as discussed above.  Many feel that anything more than a fine grit stone shortens instrument life.  In actuality, it is improper sharpening technique and over sharpening that results in shortened instrument life not the coarseness of the grit.  Another argument for using a fine grit stone is the ability to produce an edge with minimal irregularities.  True, a coarser grit stone will result in more irregularity of the edge but of what consequence?  How many strokes are needed before the fine imperfections of the edge are gone?  I suspect very few.  In fact, a slightly irregular edge may be of benefit in removing tough deposits.  Then, as the instrument continues to be used, it becomes “duller” providing more of a burnishing effect.    

To avoid over sharpening, it is important to know when the instrument is sharp.

We find acrylic test sticks inaccurate.  It is easy to dig a dull instrument into an acrylic test stick by simply using more pressure or by increasing the angle of the blade against the stick.

The simplest and the best test is the glare test.  Use a good light source, like an operatory light, and look directly at the edge.  You may need to rotate the instrument slightly side to side to make sure you are looking directly at the edge.  If the edge reflects light it is dull.

The Gold Edge Sharpener is a new and innovative synthetic dental sharpener that out-performs all other synthetic sharpeners.

The improved performance of the Gold Edge Sharpener lies in its manufacturing process and its design features.

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