The Life of an Instrument
January 31, 2024 at 5:00 AM
by Kathleen Bokrossy
<strong><span style="color:rgba(178, 150, 199, 1)">The Life of an Instrument</span></strong>

Many of our members reached out after last week's On-Track Tuesday blog letting me know that they liked and appreciated the reminders of how they can get new instruments in their practice. I will keep the Instrumentation Proposal Worksheet, that was included in last week, and add a new instrumentation worksheet to this week as well (see below for downloads).

Many were asking what a reasonable life of an instrument should be. How long should an instrument last?

I get asked this question often and there are many things to consider!

1. How many kits are you working with? If you only have 5 kits per op and are seeing 8 clients/patients a day, you will wear through your instruments faster than if you had 8 kits to get you through the day.

2. How many instruments do you have in each kit? If you only have 2- 3 instruments, you will go through your instruments faster than if you had 5-8 in a kit, as an example.

3. Are you using ultrasonic instrumentation? If you are typically using ultrasonics 80% of the time and using your hand instruments 20% of the time, your instruments will last you longer than if you were solely relying on hand instrumentation.

4. What kind of calculus or deposits are you dealing with? If you have a clientele that presents with moderate to heavy deposits (and is it tenacious?) at every appointment, you are going to go through your instruments a lot faster than if you had a clientele that presents with less. I have worked in practices where a large percentage of our patients presented with moderate to heavy calculus, they were not using power brushes. Versus, I have worked in practices where the majority of our patients were on a power brush and would come in and get their new power brush heads every few months. They definitely presented with less! To me, it all starts here with respect to how long your instruments will or could last. How your patients present at their appointments will affect the longevity of your ultrasonic inserts and hand instruments.

5. Are you following the MIFU for your instruments?

If you are using the Sharpen-Free instruments, you may find that they won't last as long as you are typically used to. This is because many dental hygienists are generally using instruments beyond the life expectancy of the instrument.

Some companies will state on their website that the life of an instrument is 9 months or 1 year.

If you rely more on your ultrasonics, have more kits and more instruments available, and get your clients to present with less, your instruments may last up to 1.5 - 2 years (max). Think about the every day wear and tear of the instruments, the size of the blade, the sharpening and reshaping that is required. 1.5 - 2 years is a reasonable time to consider replacement.

I have been in the instrumentation business for many years and have seen all types of instruments from different brands (the cheaper they are, the faster you will go through them), to poorly sharpened instruments (you know that sickelized curette!)! It is worth purchasing high quality instruments and purchasing enough kits for the day with a good variety of instruments that suits your client's unique needs. Consider keeping a master set so you can compare to your set for sharpening and to recognize when to replace. Finally, be sure that you are sharpening when required. If you share instruments, ensure that you are sharpening with the same technique. If you don't have an instrumentation budget, get one! Now is the time! Start 2024 off right and plan your year accordingly.

Assess your instruments. Look at what you have and what you need. Do your homework and use the worksheets below to determine what you need. Get pricing. With conferences coming up, often companies will honour early bird conference pricing. Get your prices and then present your case to the decision makers, if you need to, to get new instruments. Once you are successful with getting the budget, you won't have to go through this every year. Fortunately, some dental hygienists can purchase instruments when they need them, and that is a beautiful thing!

Curion has a special on now with the LM-Dental instruments. You can take a look and see if this is something you can work with on the worksheets below. Click here for the Sharpen-Free specials and here for the Stainless Steel instruments (DuraGrade Max Steel). They are offering a 20% discount with a free mirror (for every 5 instruments purchased).

I have also included The Decision Tree for Instrument Selection below to help you create kits.

If you would like to join me for Sharpen Your Skills, I go over all of this in-depth. There is an online live streaming version and an in-person version for this course.

I hope this helps :)

Thank you for your support and for reading!

Have a great week!


Kathleen Bokrossy, RDH ~ President

Instrumentation Worksheet

Instrumentation Proposal

Decision Tree Stainless Steel

Decision Tree Sharpen Free