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As great as it was to share our Big Texas Spring Break with everyone, it felt good getting back into the office as well. And during the week we heard this question:

Mike asks, “What is that water tool that you use to clean my teeth?”

dental tool

We get asked this a lot, actually! It is called a magnetostrictive ultrasonic scaler. Most people think that it’s the water that’s doing the cleaning, when in truth the water is working as a coolant for all the friction going on. Imagine something tapping a surface over and over, very quickly. It’s going to generate a lot of heat in a small area, so what the water does is to pull the heat away from the tooth and the result is a warm, gentle spray, which is what you feel when you’re getting your teeth cleaned.

That friction is pretty amazing, though! The side of the metal is placed next to the part of the tooth that is getting cleaned and it vibrates about 500 cycles per second, acting like an eraser for any accumulated material on your teeth and along the gumline. Stainless steel is harder than plaque, tartar, and stains so it is able to remove them comfortably. However, scalers are much, much softer than tooth structure, so the tips do tend to wear down quickly and have to be disposed of only after a few months of use. All inserts (and other instruments, for that matter) are sterilized in a high-pressure autoclave between patients.

Gone are the days of heavy forces to scratch material off your teeth. Today’s modern ultrasonics can remove just about every bit of hardened tartar with a featherlight touch. And the next time you’re in, ask us to see one up close if we’ve piqued your curiosity.