The invention of the cotton tipped applicator has been credited to Leo Gerstenzang in 1923. The Polish born American supposedly came up with the idea after watching his wife stick bits of cotton to the end of toothpicks in an effort to reach hard to clean areas. Thus, the brand we all know today as Q-Tips was born. In addition to the many household uses that have since been found, there is now a regular demand for them as applicators in the medical and dental fields.
While household cotton tipped applicators are typically two sided and more often found with either a rolled paper or plastic base, applicators for medical use more closely resemble their ancestors and are single-sided tips of cotton at the end of a wooden stick, or occasionally now plastic as well.
The other main differentiating difference in available cotton tipped applicators for the dental office is size. All applicators are manufactured to a uniform shape and length and that length is usually either three or six inches. Although many dental offices may stock both, it’s typically a waste of available inventory to bother with the shorter sizes since the six inch applicators tend to be the most universal.
Having the longer length cotton tipped applicators at hand makes it much more convenient for applying topical anesthetic to the rear of a patient’s mouth. With only a three inch length, there is much more invasion and discomfort in reaching since your hand must reach closer to, or sometimes inside of, the mouth. Similar for painting on fluoride (if using foam instead of a varnish) having the extra length gives a more flexible reach. A longer applicator can also be a handy tool to quickly hold a lip in place for patients with a lower lip line. For uses that require more detail and length is unimportant, it is always possible to hold closer to the base of the stick to gain better accuracy or control. However, if all you have is the shorter length, there is no way to suddenly get more coverage.
Even if you’re just using the cotton tipped applicators as their inventor first created them, to help clean tough to reach or small areas, the six inch length once again increases the flexibility and reach that you have to handle almost any task with just one product.
In the end, regardless of whether you choose to stock the shorter length cotton tipped applicators, the most important thing is that the longer ones are always a consistent part of your inventory.Read More