What Kind of Tools Does a Dentist Use?
Although the full list of dental instruments can be long and confusing for the average person, certain tools are almost always used during an office visit. Knowing the purpose of these instruments will help you understand what your dentist is doing during the exam/treatment.
The following dental instruments are the most common ones used during an examination for cleaning and other basic procedures:
- Mouth Mirror:
This is one of the most well-known instruments. It consists of a small rounded mirror fixed on a metal grip which allows the dentist to examine a patient’s mouth and teeth. The mirror can also magnify the oral cavity allowing for a better examination.
- Saliva Ejector:
The saliva ejector or aspirator consists of a curved suction tube with a removable tip which is attached to a vacuum. During dental treatment it is used to remove saliva, blood and small pieces of debris from the mouth so the oral cavity will stay clean and dry. This tool is used during dental cleanings and when you have a cavity filled.
- Dental Explorer and Periodontal Probes:
Probes are instruments that are used during an exam. They are specialized for teeth examination, cleaning the gum area or scraping teeth.
The dental explorer has a shape similar to a shepherd’s hook. Its sharp, pointed end is used to find soft spots or small areas of decay on the tooth surface.
A periodontal probe is long and thin with a blunt end. It’s used to measure the depth of pockets in the gum to determine the extent of gum disease (gingivitis or periodontitis).
The dentist’s drill removes decay and carves and polishes the teeth area prior to filling a cavity. The part of the drill that removes material and shapes the tooth is called a dental bur. Burs come in a variety of shapes and your dentist will choose one depending on what needs to be done to the tooth.
This metal tool is used to insert or remove small objects in the mouth. For example, dental tweezers can be used to insert cotton into the mouth to control bleeding or prevent saliva from wetting the treatment area.
- Instruments for Fillings:
The spoon shaped Excavator is used to remove decay from the teeth.
The Condenser, also known as a plugger, is used to press the filling material (amalgam) into a cavity.
A Carver is used to carve and shape the amalgam.
Care of Dental Instruments:
Your dentist will keep their instruments sterile at all times using a high heat, steam autoclave. The autoclave is a machine that sterilizes the instruments using high temperature steam that is under pressure.