by Mary E. Jacks, RDH, MS
Dental hygienists are responsible for creating a safe environment for themselves and their patients by implementing all safety recommendations when using an ultrasonic scaling device. To this end, numerous guidelines have been written by various government agencies and professional associations that are designed to protect oral health care personnel from potentially hazardous bacteria.
Ultrasonic instrumentation is an accepted method of treatment for a variety of oral conditions. In the practice of dental hygiene, irritant solutions from ultrasonic scaling devices produce the therapeutic effects of lavage; however, the solutions also combine with blood, saliva, and bacteria to produce minute aerosolized particles capable of remaining airborne for several hours. Studies of ultrasonic instrumentation have documented 100,000 microbes per cubic foot of air, and aerosols traveling six feet from the site of operation.’ Other studies have shown that bacteria may ride air-currents for periods of 35 minutes to 17 hours.