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What is that thing? Dental Tools Used in Cleaning Your Teeth

October 7th, 2021

The appearance of dental tools can be somewhat frightening as can the sounds emitted by some dental tools. And, they can be especially frightening for young children or those who experience anxiety about dental visits.

Knowing a little bit about the tools a dentist or dental hygienist will use and, understanding their purpose in caring for teeth, can allay some of those fears.

The tools used in cleaning your teeth are examined in this blog.


Mouth Mirror

The mouth mirror is a small, usually circular mirror attached to a handle. It may be the least frightening tool in a dental office, but it is an indispensable tool in many dental procedures including a dental cleaning.

This tool reflects the bright overhead light thereby illuminating the mouth’s interior. This enables the hygienist to get a good look at gum tissue and the surfaces of each of your teeth – including the ones at the back of your mouth. With the use of this tool, a hygienist can detect tooth decay or other potential oral problems.

The hygienist will also use the mouth mirror to move your tongue or push on the inside of the cheek to determine if there are any issues in those areas of the mouth.



Like a mouth mirror, this tool has a metal handle, but it looks more frightening than the mouth mirror. This is because there is a metal hook shaped piece at each end of the handle and those hooks look sharp!

The truth is, they must be as they are used to scrape off plaque and tartar from tooth surfaces. One of the hooks has a pointed end. It is used to remove plaque and tartar from tooth surfaces above the gumline. The other hook has a blunt end. This one is used to scrape teeth below the gumline and is blunt so it does not damage the gums.

Most hygienists will use an ultrasonic scaler first. The sound frequency helps remove plaque and tartar and uses a water spray to cool the tip of the scaler and rinse the mouth. It is after using this scaler that a hygienist will bring out the scary looking hand-held scaler to remove any plaque or tartar remining on the teeth.


Saliva Ejector or Suction Device

When a hygienist or dentist are exploring the mouth they often need a dry surface. This is when an ejector stick attached to a long tube which is attached to a vacuum is used. As the names of the tool imply, it is used to suck up and remove saliva. It is also used to vacuum up any water if water is used during a dental procedure.

When this tool is used vacuum sounds can be heard. The ejector stick will sometimes stick to the tongue or cheek which often inspires laughter rather than fear.



Once the plaque and tartar have been removed from your teeth it is time for a polishing. The most common polishers used are those that have a small rubber cup attached to a low speed, rotating electric drill. Don’t be unnerved or frightened by the use of the word drill. Just picture an electric toothbrush (the drill) that uses a rotating action and having a rubber cup on the head instead of bristles.

The cup is dipped into a dental polishing paste and then applied to your teeth. The paste is an abrasive that scrubs away any stains and buffs uneven areas leaving the teeth clean and as white and shiny as possible.

When next at the dentist, the tray of dental cleaning tools used by the hygienist will be familiar and their purpose understood. But, if additional information is desired, rest assured the hygienist will be happy to answer any questions and allay any discomfort or fear about tools and procedures.




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Portman Dental Care

Posted in Dental Care, Dental Services, Health