Automated scalers are commonplace for prophy and periodontal purposes, but they are also now being used for cavity preparations and endodontics. When selecting specific instruments, it is important to delineate how it will be used or consider the extent of its capabilities. Otherwise, you may miss out on important functions or you may be paying for options you never intend to utilize.
Sonic vs. Ultrasonic
Sonic Consists of a handpiece that is similar to a highspeed handpiece. It connects directly to the dental unit, is driven via compressed air, has a water spray with the water coming from the dental unit itself, and is activated by the dental unit foot control. The sonic scaler tip moves in an elliptical pattern, with all surfaces of the tip active. Sonic scalers operate at relatively low vibrations per second (2,500-7,000).
Ultrasonic Separate unit that is driven by its own electric generator, with water spray coming from its own receptacle or via a connection to the dental unit. It consists of a handpiece that is activated via a separate foot control from the dental unit. Ultrasonic scalers operate at relatively high vibrations per second (18,000-50,000). There are two types of ultrasonic scalers with unique characteristics, but most clinicians would use the units in a similar manner.
Magnetostrictive Receives its power through a metal stack in the insert and has an elliptical motion at the tip of the insert, which means all sides of the tip are active. This type may require more maintenance and set-up time.
Piezoelectric Receives its power from crystal transducers in the handpiece and has a linear motion — only the lateral sides of the tip are active.
Overall, choosing between the two types is a matter of preference. The magnetostrictive types probably have a better selection of tips, which are active on all sides, while the piezoelectric handpiece is less bulky, lighter in weight, and more effective removing calculus.
Regardless of which you choose, ultra thin tips and a light touch will help ensure patient comfort, but it does take longer to remove resistant deposits with these fine tips.
Sonic vs. Ultrasonic for Calculus and Stain Removal
While sonic scalers are very easy to install and have a flat learning curve, they typically do not provide enough power to remove tenacious calculus. They also tend to be noisier and the lower vibrations seem to be more bothersome to patients. In addition, the tips are typically not a fine as those for ultrasonic, which means access to deep periodontal pockets and furcations would be limited.