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The 9 Things You Always Wanted to Know about Dental Hygienist Tools

dental tools Dental Care Center

Shiny. Silver. Scary? You may know the shiny, silver objects sitting on the tray are used to clean your teeth. But what are these tools, really?

We call them dental instruments. While you might find them intimidating, the hygienist uses these important tools to examine and clean your teeth. Since we often fear the unknown, why not learn a little bit more about the dental instruments?

Hygienist instruments include: a disposable saliva ejector, a mouth mirror, a cotton forceps, explorers, a sickle scaler, a hatchet, a smooth condenser, a woodson, a hollenback carver, a dental air drill and many more. Here is the lowdown on nine of those instruments:

  1. Disposable saliva ejector – You probably call it the “spit sucker.” This provides a low amount of suction to remove saliva, blood, water, or debris during procedures and cleaning. Yes, we’re vacuuming up the mess.
  2. Mouth mirror – Obviously, this helps our team members get a better view. We also use it to reflect light and to retract your lips, cheeks, and tongue. The mirror can either be a flat surface mirror or a concave mirror.
  3. Cotton forceps – These “grabbers” have plain or serrated tips and are used to grasp and/or transfer material in and out of the mouth.
  4. Explorers – These are sometimes called a perioprobe, and they help us examine teeth for decay, calculus, furcation, or canals and other anomalies. Explorers have pointed tips which are either sharp, thin, or flexible. This is the tool your dentist uses to poke around for cavities.  
  5. Sickle Scaler – This is one of our hygienists’ main tools. It comes in a variety of sizes and has sharp edges with a sharp point. The scaler is used to scrape large amounts of plaque and tartar deposits from your teeth surface.
  6. Hatchet – This one sounds scary, but it’s simply a tool used for cavity preparation and to remove unsupported enamel from the tooth. The dental hatchet is a metal instrument which has a patterned handle one sided and an angled pointed tip on the other.
  7. Smooth condenser – As the name implies, this instrument has smooth ends. It can be round or flat, can be small or large, and be single or double-sided. The condenser is used to pack and condense amalgam (cavity filling) into the space your dentist cleared.
  8. Hollenback carver – This tool is double-ended with a sharp, stiff metal blade on one side and a sharp point on the other; the ends are protrude at different angles. The hollenback carver purpose is to contour, place, and carve dental amalgam. Dental amalgam is a liquid mercury and metal alloy mixture used to fill cavities caused by tooth decay.  
  9. Dentist air drill – This is an air compressor, but a much smaller one that you might see on a construction site! Air drills are used instead of a regular dental drill to remove small, early areas of tooth decay.  

While you’re getting your teeth cleaned, we’re happy to answer questions about the tools of the trade. Schedule an appointment with one of our hygienists for your next cleaning.