The performance characteristics of a piezoelectric ultrasonic dental scaler

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The objective of this work was to investigate the performance characteristics of a piezoelectric ultrasonic dental scaler using scanning laser vibrometry. The vibration characteristics of three standard piezoelectric tips were assessed with scanning laser vibrometry under various conditions: unconstrained, under a stream of flowing water, in a water tank, as well as subjected to loads to simulate clinical conditions. Subsequently, the tips were used to disrupt an in-vitro biofilm model of dental plaque, developed using a non-pathogenic Gram-negative species of Serratia (NCIMB40259).

The laser vibrometry data showed that the oscillation pattern of the ultrasonic tip depends primarily on its shape and design, as well as on the generator power. Thin tips and high power settings induce the highest vibrations. Water irrigation of the tip and loads influence the tip performance by diminishing its vibration, while water volume increases it.

Serratia biofilm was disrupted by the cavitation bubbles occurring around the scaler tip. The most effective biofilm removal occurred with the thinner tip.

Understanding how the ultrasonic tip oscillates when in use and how it removes dental plaque is essential for gaining more knowledge regarding the cleaning mechanisms of the ultrasonic system. Cavitation may be used to remove plaque and calculus without a mechanical contact between the dental tip and the teeth. Better knowledge would enable dental specialists to understand and improve their techniques during routine cleaning of teeth. It will also lead to improving tip design and to the production of more effective instruments for clinical use.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199–203
JournalMedical Engineering & Physics
Issue number2
Early online date2 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016


  • Scanning laser vibrometry
  • Ultrasonic scaler
  • Vibration performance
  • Displacement
  • Cavitation
  • Biofilm disruption


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