The aim of this investigation was to determine if cavitation occurred around dental ultrasonic scalers and to estimate the amount of cavitation occurring. Three styles of tip (3 x TFI-10, 3 x TFI-3, 3 x TFI-1) were used, in conjunction with a Cavitron SPS ultrasonic generator (Dentsply, USA), to insonate terephthalic acid solution. The hydroxyl radical, [OH], concentration, produced due to cavitation from the scaler tips, was monitored by fluorescence spectroscopy. Cavitational activity was enhanced at higher power settings and at longer operating times. The tip dimensions and geometry as well as the generator power setting are both important factors that affect the production of cavitation. (C) 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.