Dental Instruments 101: What You Need to Know

a set of dental instruments lying on a table, one holding an extracted tooth

One of the key responsibilities of any dental assistant is being able to work with various instruments, sterilize them, and hand them over to the dentist when needed. Being able to refine this skill will ensure the patient undergoes a safe and effective procedure, so what can you do to feel more confident about the tools you and your dentist will be using on a daily basis? Read on to find out how a dental assisting school can give you the knowledge you need to work with various dental instruments in your future profession.

Why Is It Important to Know Which Dental Instrument to Use?

During your hands-on dental assisting program, you will be expected to demonstrate a thorough knowledge of all dental instruments used in a typical office. The reason this is important is that you will be responsible for handling them and providing the dentist with the appropriate tool when asked. Not knowing which instruments to use can delay a  procedure, frustrate a dentist, and even cause harm to the patient.

What are the Most Common Instruments Found in a Dental Office?

Whether you are solely focusing on school right now or are currently employed (or interning) at a local dentist’s office, here are some of the most common dental instruments you will find:

  • Mouth Mirror: This small, hand-held device has a small mirror at the end and is used to redirect light into a patient’s mouth as well as serve as another line of sight for dentists while keeping cheeks, lips, and the tongue out of the way.
  • Explorer: If the dentist is preparing to examine a patient’s teeth and gums to look for abnormalities, you’ll need to make sure they have an explorer. This allows the dentist to check for tooth decay, calculus, and other serious problems that can negatively affect a patient’s smile.
  • Cotton Forceps: Similar in appearance to traditional tweezers, the ends bend downward and are used to insert or remove cotton or other materials in and out of a patient’s mouth.
  • Periodontal Probe: During a general checkup, a dental hygienist will check a patient’s gum pockets to measure their depth. To do this, they will use a periodontal probe. Because “peri” means “related to bone or tissue around a tooth,” you can better affiliate this tool with periodontal exams/treatment.
  • Ultrasonic Scaler: When it comes to removing built-on tartar from teeth, you will need to hand your dentist the ultrasonic scaler. Creating vibrations, it effectively (and powerfully) removes hardened plaque and tartar, reducing the risk for tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Extracting Forceps: Similar in appearance to a pair of pliers, extracting forceps are used when a dentist needs to remove a tooth.
  • Dental Elevator: This particular instrument is also used during tooth extractions, but its purpose is to enlarge the socket and lift the tooth in question before it is removed.
  • Air Water Syringe: You’ve likely seen these during your own dental appointment. It injects water or air into the mouth to effectively remove debris.
  • Saliva Ejector: The dentist will insert this into a patient’s mouth when it’s time to remove excess water or saliva from the oral cavity.

Now that you have more information about the dental instruments used, you can feel more confident in your abilities as a dental assistant the next time you arrive for class and/or work.

About Dental Assistant Pro
This 10-week course schedule is a class-based instructional program that uses real-life scenarios and hands-on experience to train the best dental assistants. Dental Assistant Pro is designed to allow students the ability to pursue a new career path while continuing to work full-time jobs. To learn more about us, visit our website or call (614) 202-3919.

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