If your hands could talk

Posted on March 28, 2017

If our hands could talk, do you think you would get reprimanded for abuse or neglect? Imagine this scenario…

     **Police sirens**

     Officer: “Do you know why I pulled you over today, Miss?”

     Hygienist: “No, was I speeding?”

     Officer: “No, you have been ignoring all the warnings your hands and wrists have
     been giving you to take it easy. I’m going to have to write you a ticket. If you can’t
     change your scaling technique, next time it will be carpal tunnel surgery and five
     years in jail.”

If this was an actual life event and we were to have a show of hands, what would you be guilty of? Think about it, how much self-destruction is done? What would your hands say if your they could talk?

WAIT A SECOND! Hold-up! Our hands can talk and they do so by expressing themselves through all the little aches, cramps, pinches, and stings. When painful symptoms appear, its usually their way of screaming out for attention! Dental hygienists are all guilty of this behavior and it is time to be mindful of early warning signs. The prevention of hand-abuse is the remedy for career longevity.   

Hygienists are very familiar with the art behind our profession, which is the ability to remove calculus by utilizing powered scalers and hand instruments. While powered scalers have huge advantages to saving the hands, wrists, and arms of hygienists, manual scaling must still take place at every appointment. It is imperative to know that the instrument selection process goes hand in hand with the longevity of one’s career and stopping all those unwanted aches and pains. Selecting instruments with ergonomic qualities such as: weight, texture, sharpness, diameter, and maintenance will hands-down decrease hand-abuse.

Hygienists now have options in selecting instruments other than the traditional stainless steel. These instruments have the ergonomic benefit of decreasing hand fatigue because of their ability to retain a proper edge, and use of a modified scaling technique in practice. Selecting a sharpen-free instrument means a significantly slower wear rate for the working end, eliminating the need to sharpen during the life of the instrument. A mix of proprietary metals make the instrument more durable than the traditional stainless steel instruments.

When choosing instruments to stop hand-abuse and or prevent injuries, hygienist must ask these 5 questions:

1.     What type of metal is the instrument? (traditional stainless steel or sharpen-free)

2.     Does it have a large-diameter, lightweight, texturized grip that will increase tactile sensitivity?

3.     Do I recognize when my instruments are becoming dull and do I have time to sharpen?

4.     Am I proficient in knowing the correct angles of the cutting edges on all the instruments I use?

5.     Can I sharpen the instrument to its original factory edge to reduce injury to myself or patients?


If you are not proficient in sharpening to the original factory edges, nor have the time to sharpen instruments prior to normal scaling and root planing treatments, then it is highly recommended to use sharpen-free instruments. Sharpen-free technology has been designed with a proprietary titanium nitride alloy that has slow wear resistance qualities. This technology eases the mind of the clinician and ensures the correct cutting edges every time because sharpening instruments is no longer needed. In addition to decreasing operator hand fatigue, sharpen-free instruments can improve calculus removal, enhance tactile sensitivity and reduce patient discomfort. Listen to your hands and select American Eagle sharpen-free XP Technology instruments for these beneficial ergonomic qualities. They will thank you later with better hand health and career longevity! 

- Dee Humphrey, RDH, BHSc