Many of us are diligent about our bi-annual trips to the dentist. We dutifully go every six months and get our teeth cleaned, cavities filled and fluoride applied. But for many people, that’s about as much as they know about the dentist. And looking at the tray of unknown tools next to the dentist chair can be a little intimidating and scary. So we thought it would be worthwhile to provide a quick overview of the common tools that dentists use during typical appointments.
This is probably the least scary of the tools on the table. In short, it’s simply a mirror on a little stick and it allows the dentist, or the dental assistant, to see into the nooks and crannies of your mouth. It’s particularly helpful for seeing behind teeth since the dentist can’t see those when looking from the outside of your mouth!
This is most likely one of the first tools that you see the dental hygienist use when they first begin working on your teeth. It looks like a sharp hook on the end of a short metal stick. It’s used to get into the pockets between teeth and to help identify potential cavities or to scrape away at small areas of plaque or build up.
The scaler is very similar to the sickle probe, but with a slightly bigger surface area on the hook. Whereas the sickle probe is used to scrape off small areas of dental buildup, the scaler is meant for slightly larger areas. It accomplishes the same task of scraping off placque but does it faster than the sickle probe would.
Let’s be honest, this is basically a fancy vacuum for your mouth. When your teeth are being cleaned and your mouth is open, it’s often difficult to swallow. That means that saliva can build up in your mouth, making you feel uncomfortable and making it harder for the dentist to work. Similarly, if your gums bleed or if the dentist sprays your teeth with water, both of these liquids can also just sit in the back of your throat. The suction device allows the dentist to suck that liquid out of your mouth, making you more comfortable and allowing the dentist to work more efficiently.
This is probably the scariest tool, but also one of the most interesting. Dental drills are used for drilling out tooth decay before filling a cavity. They spin at over 250,000 revolutions per minute, which is 250 times faster than the typical idling RPM of your car’s engine! And, they spray water on the tooth while they drill because the heat from the friction could cause damage to your teeth otherwise. Pretty cool stuff!
We know the dentist can be scary to go to sometimes. Hopefully this quick rundown of common tools helps reduce some of your anxiety at your next visit!