Dentists and hygienists use many different tools during a typical dental exam. You’ve probably never asked what each tool was for, but we are sure you have wondered! Our tool boxes are full of different tools, each with a specific purpose.We wanted to give you a closer look of what these tools are, so here is a brief overview to improve your understanding of the tools we use most often during exams. Here’s a look at four we use daily!
- Dental Explorer: Described often as a “mini shepherd’s hook,” the dental explorer is a probe that serves numerous purposes. We use this tool by gently touching each of your teeth individually. We are probing for the presence of cavities and testing the hardness of your teeth. It also helps us determine the amount of enamel, plaque, and tartar on each tooth before going through the cleaning process.
- Saliva Ejector: In the course of a cleaning, we use a straw-like tool that sounds like a small vacuum. This suction tool is used to remove spit, water, blood, and debris during the cleaning process. It helps keeps the area clean and dry, making the process easier. After each patient, the plastic end of the ejector is disposed of and a new one is added.
- Periodontal Probe: Without looking closely, this tool can easily be confused with a dental explorer. They look very similar, however, this probe has a blunt end. The design of the end allows us to measure the space between gum tissue and each tooth, which is important as the space can be an indicator of gum disease.
- Scaler: The manual scaler also looks like a dental explorer, but has a sharper pointed end. This tool is used to remove plaque to help keep teeth clean and free of stains. In our office, most hygienists use an ultrasonic scaler to remove plaque. The ultrasonic version has a similar end but, alternatively, vibrates at a rate of 20-45kHz, reducing the time it takes to remove the plaque from each tooth. This ultrasonic tool is accompanied by a jet of cool water for your comfort.
Want to learn more about the dental tools we use? Just ask your hygienist at your next visit! We’d love to show you the differences in person and explain how we use each one!