Dental Hygiene is defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as “the practice of keeping the mouth, teeth, and gums clean and healthy to prevent disease.” It is widely understood that good oral care is essential to overall health. A surprising number of diseases can be caused by inadequate oral hygiene. Conversely, certain medical conditions can also cause poor oral health despite good hygiene. This is why it is important to see a dentist or dental hygienist regularly for checkups, cleanings and advice on the best oral care products to maintain healthy teeth and gums.

For the dental provider, your training and your hygienist kit are your best tools to help patients protect their oral health. In this article, we will discuss how dental hygiene tools are used in a typical oral hygiene appointment and how the design and features of DENTALEZ’s low-speed, hygiene handpieces and hand instruments contribute to your ease of use and the safety and satisfaction of your patients.

Typical Oral Hygiene Appointment

In addition to an at-home daily oral hygiene routine, everyone needs to see a professional dental hygienist at an interval recommended by their dentist based on personal factors. A typical oral hygiene appointment is 30-60 minutes long and may involve several steps, including:
• a review of the patient’s medical history and previous dental records (first visit),
• taking and recording vitals and chief complaint(s), if any,
• tooth count and visual inspection of the teeth and gums,
• oral cancer screening, and
• radiograph, or X-ray, of the teeth and jaws.

Assuming there are no major problems that require additional time with the dentist, the bulk of the dental hygiene appointment is spent on cleaning and polishing, also known as prophylaxis:
Cleaning: Cleaning involves using scalers to scrape calculus, or tartar, from around the teeth, between the teeth and just below the gum line. Scalers can be traditional handheld instruments or newer air-driven sonic devices.
Polishing: Polishing is achieved with a prophylaxis, or prophy, angle—a dental hygiene tool that is attached to an air-driven motor or a cordless, battery-operated handpiece. It has a flexible cup at the tip that spins to apply a prophy paste to the teeth. This action removes stains and polishes enamel to a smooth finish.
Prophy handpiece cleaning the mouth
The visit ends with a discussion of a treatment plan as well as recommendations for oral care products and oral care instructions. For dental hygienists, your job satisfaction depends on being able to spend enough time with patients to give them the best care you can. Your hygienist kit and the tools in it can make a big difference in your ability to work efficiently and comfortably. Hygiene handpieces are key to providing excellent care while protecting your own health and well-being.

Dental Handpieces & Oral Hygiene

The types of tools used during a dental hygiene appointment fall into three categories: low-speed air-driven handpieces, cordless battery-operated handpieces and handheld instruments. The type of hygiene handpiece you use for a procedure depends on your own preferences for efficiency and comfort as well as your patient’s individual needs. Because hygienists spend all day using their hands and wrists, repetitive motion strain and injuries are a risk. You should choose tools that are the most comfortable for you to minimize this.

Low-speed Dental Handpieces

Low-speed dental handpieces can be used for both operative dentistry and hygiene. Operating at 5,000 to 20,000 rpm, they are the workhorses of the dental operatory. (By contrast, high-speed handpieces operate at 200,000 to 400,000 rpm and are used by dentists in procedures like crown preparation where gross removal of tooth structure is necessary.)

Titan Low-speed Motors
DENTALEZ’s series of Titan low-speed motors for hygiene are 5,000 or 20,000 rpm multi-purpose units that come in different materials and with features to suit your preferences:
• Models made from classic stainless steel or lighter-weight titanium
• Fully autoclavable for easy sterilization
• Fixed or swivel back ends to suit your preferences
• Compatible with both straight nose cone and contra angle attachments

Titan Blis-sonic Scaler
The DENTALEZ Titan Blis-sonic scaler creates vibration at the tip to aid in the removal of hard calculus deposits from the patient’s teeth and gumline. The Blis-sonic scaler produces 7,000-8,000Hz per minute of vibration, allowing you to clean calculus and stains from the tooth surface.
• Made from lightweight anodized aluminum, weighing 50.7 grams and the swivel weighing 54.6 grams
• Uses interchangeable color-coded silicone grips
• Available with a 360° swivel or fixed back end
– Swivel provides more ease of movement
– Fixed back end is slightly shorter and lighter
• Includes five different scaling tip designs
• Fully autoclavable for easy sterilization

Prophy Star 3
At just 62 grams, the DENTALEZ Prophy Star 3 is a lightweight, compact handpiece designed for a comfortable hygiene experience for both patient and hygienist. It is an air-driven instrument that accepts disposable prophy angles for efficient polishing.
• Made from lightweight anodized aluminum
• Uses interchangeable color-coded silicone grips
• 360° swivel provides freedom for greater precision and comfort
• Speed rating adjustable from 0-5000 rpm
• Lubrication-free for easy maintenance
• Fully autoclavable for easy sterilization

Cordless Handpieces

Cordless battery-operated dental hygiene tools are newer than air-driven models and are fast becoming the tool of preference for oral care and hygiene procedures in the dental operatory. The consensus seems to be that cordless prophylaxis handpieces eliminate the drag that an air hose causes, thereby reducing strain on the user’s hand and wrist.

iStar Prophy Handpiece
The 2021 award-winning DENTALEZ iStar Prophy handpiece is an essential tool in hygienist kits. Its compact, cordless design makes it easier to use with patients who cannot sit well in the dental chair, such as small children or those who use wheelchairs.
• Weighs only 90 grams
• The design results in less hand fatigue and wrist strain
• Sealed exterior with custom disposable barriers to aid disinfection
• Use with any disposable prophy angle
• Fingertip control lets you choose speeds from 500-2500 rpm
• Motor is lubrication free
• Quiet during use

Watch our video testimonial of the iStar Prophy below.

Handheld Hygiene Instruments

A discussion of dental hygiene tools and hygiene handpieces would not be complete without the mention of handheld instruments. Manual hand tools have a long history in dentistry and innovations continue to this day. An exhaustive discussion of handheld hygiene tools, which form part of the larger body periodontic hand instruments, can be found here. Factors you should consider when choosing hand instruments—as with air-driven and cordless electric handpieces—include comfort and efficient cleaning action for both you and your patient. These may be influenced by:
• Materials
• Weight and weight balance of the handle
• Diameter of the handle
• Texture of the handle to prevent slippage

DENTALEZ’s line of dental hand instruments is designed with a high grade of solid stainless steel that is durable, yet provides a thin, flexible tip for easier caries detection. Micrograin stainless steel stays sharp longer and resists breakage and corrosion.

Three hand instruments

Other Pieces in the Hygiene Systems Puzzle

Other pieces of equipment in the dental office play a role in dental hygiene systems. Air-driven hygiene handpieces are powered by an air compressor in the mechanical room. Wet or dry vacuum pumps also provide an invaluable service, working together with the Hands-Free HVE to prevent spatter and aerosolized particles from escaping the patient’s oral cavity. All of these systems perform their roles to create a dental operatory that is greater than the sum of its parts, providing office-based oral care that is efficient, clean and safe.

Hands-Free HVE

When positioned correctly, an extraoral HVE can significantly reduce the number of airborne particles reaching the breathing area of the patient and clinician. The Hands-Free HVE helps you accomplish this easily and cost-effectively, giving you additional piece of mind whenever supplemental extraoral HVE suction is desired, or anytime someone is not available to hold an HVE in place.

Forest Hands-Free HVE Holder
• Provides full time extraoral HVE suction during aerosol-generating procedures, such as high-speed handpiece and ultrasonic scaler use
• Easy to clean using common dental practice disinfectants
• Flexible design allows you to position the HVE with precision
• Compatible with most patient chairs on the market today

Conclusion

Maintaining healthy teeth and gums is essential to overall health; however, patients’ oral hygiene routines vary so widely that dental professionals are often required to do exhaustive remedial work to ensure the best oral health possible for those patients. Due to the physical and repetitive nature of this work, performed with your hands in the small space of the oral cavity, your hygiene handpieces must be functional and comfortable to enable you to get the job done as quickly and painlessly as possible for both you and your patient. Hygiene handpieces driven by low-speed motors provide consistent action, while the cordless iStar Prophy Handpiece provides freedom from cords and maintenance.