Position paper: sonic and ultrasonic scalers in periodontics. Research, Science and Therapy Committee of the American Academy of Periodontology

J Periodontol. 2000 Nov;71(11):1792-801. doi: 10.1902/jop.2000.71.11.1792.


Ultrasonic and sonic scalers appear to attain similar results as hand instruments for removing plaque, calculus, and endotoxin. Ultrasonic scalers used at medium power seem to produce less root surface damage than hand or sonic scalers. Due to instrument width, furcations may be more accessible using ultrasonic or sonic scalers than manual scalers. It is not clear whether root surface roughness is more or less pronounced following power-driven scalers or manual scalers. It is also unclear if root surface roughness affects long-term wound healing. Periodontal scaling and root planing includes thorough calculus removal, but complete cementum removal should not be a goal of periodontal therapy. Studies have established that endotoxin is weakly adsorbed to the root surface, and can be easily removed with light, overlapping strokes with an ultrasonic scaler. A significant disadvantage of power-driven scalers is the production of contaminated aerosols. Because ultrasonics and sonics produce aerosols, additional care is required to achieve and maintain good infection control when incorporating these instrumentation techniques into dental practice. Preliminary evidence suggests that the addition of certain antimicrobials to the lavage during ultrasonic instrumentation may be of minimal clinical benefit. However, more randomized controlled clinical trials need to be conducted over longer periods of time to better understand the long-term benefits of ultrasonic and sonic debridement.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols
  • Air Microbiology
  • Dental Calculus / therapy
  • Dental Cementum / surgery
  • Dental High-Speed Equipment
  • Dental Instruments
  • Dental Plaque / therapy
  • Dental Scaling / instrumentation*
  • Equipment Safety
  • Humans
  • Root Planing / instrumentation
  • Sonication / instrumentation
  • Ultrasonic Therapy / instrumentation


  • Aerosols