Understanding Dental Power Scalers

Posted on: 6 June 2017

One of the most important tasks accomplished during a routine dental cleaning is the removal of plaque and tartar from the enamel of the teeth. This task has traditionally been accomplished using what are known as hand-held scalers. Fortunately, this tedious and often uncomfortable process can now be accomplished much more easily using a so-called power scaler. If you would like to improve your understanding of this useful tool, read on. This article will provide a useful overview of power scalers.


As noted above, the chief purpose of a power scaler is to facilitate the removal of plaque deposits, which are also known as dental calculus. This removal is accomplished by means of mechanical action--in other words, the plaque is physically broken up. The key difference compared to hand scalers is the method by which this is accomplished. A hand scaler removes plaque through a repeated scraping motion; a power scaler, on the other hand, uses high-speed vibrations to accomplish this task less painfully.

Water Stream

A power scaler also incorporates a thin stream of water, which is constantly flowing out against the surface of the tooth being cleaned. This water has two key purposes: First, it acts to flush the broken up plaque off of the teeth towards a vacuum decide that will then suck it up. Second, the water helps to prevent the scaler itself from overheating as the result of its non-stop vibrations.


Ultrasonic waves are at the heart of a power scaler's functionality. Although they technically fall into the category of sound waves, ultrasonics cannot be perceived by the human ear. The purpose of these waves is to help provide the scaler with its intense vibrations. These ultrasonic waves act directly on the tip of the scaler, thereby increasing its ability to jar loose stubborn plaque deposits.

Power scalers can be distinguished in terms of how they generate their ultrasonic waves. There are two principal methods: magnetostrictive and piezoelectric. Don't worry too much about trying to grasp the differences in the ways these two systems generate their ultrasonic waves. The most important thing to understand is that the two types of power scaler utilize many different tips.

The tip of a piezoelectric power scaler is designed to move back and forth in a straight line. Magnetostrictive tips, by contrast, oscillate in an elliptical shape. The idea is that this increases the angles of approach by which the scaler can attack the plaque, thus reducing the amount of time it takes to ensure a perfectly clean tooth.

For more information on cosmetic dentistry, contact a local dentist today!