Understanding Common Dental Tools

posted by Dr. Beau Beecher, DDS on 10/12/2022 in General

tray with common stainless steel dental tools

Seeing strange, pointy instruments and hearing loud drilling noises at a dentist’s office can make even the bravest patient uneasy. But understanding the purpose of these tools can help you feel more comfortable during your appointment. Learn about common dental tools and why they are not as scary as they seem.

Mouth Mirror

dentist using mouth mirror to examine teeth

Let’s start with the least intimidating tool: the mouth mirror. As its name suggests, this is a small handheld mirror that helps the dentist, dental assistant, and hygienist take a closer look inside your mouth. With a mouth mirror, it's easier to detect tooth decay and cavities in hard-to-see areas. 

Sickle Probe

dentist holding sickle probe and mirror tool

The sickle probe with its intimidating hook can be off-putting, but it is a harmless and valuable tool that helps clean in between your teeth. The sickle probe’s hook scrapes off food particles, plaque, and tartar from your teeth. Removing this buildup from your teeth helps prevent cavities and stops the development of other serious oral issues like gum disease.


close up of scaler tool

Sometimes buildups of plaque and tartar in your mouth will need a little bit more help to break down and get cleared away. This is where the scaler comes in. Similar to a sickle probe, a scaler has a long handle with a curved top. Some dentists use a mechanical scaler which sprays water, aiding in the softening of buildup, making it easier to remove.

Suction Device

girl smiling while dentist is using suction tool

During your cleaning, your mouth may produce excess saliva. A suction device has a tube opening hooked at the edge of your cheek where it sucks the saliva and food particles from your mouth, so they don’t interfere with your cleaning. Think of a suction device as a vacuum. It might sound loud, but it’s harmless and helps you stay comfortable during your cleaning.

Dental Drill

dentist with rubber glove holding drill

The dental drill is often the most feared tool in the dentist’s office, but it sounds scarier than it actually is. Before a dental drill is applied, your dentist will administer anesthesia to numb the area that will come in contact with the drill. Therefore, you will not feel any pain if a dental drill is used to remove plaque or create a space for crowns or dental implants. You will only feel a slight vibration of the drill spinning during any procedure where it’s used.

Other Tools: Dental Syringe, Molds, and X-Rays

gray dental mold with teeth impressions 

Depending on your procedure, your dentist may use additional tools. A syringe can be used to administer anesthesia during a procedure. It may sting for a second (like any other injection), but it will make sure that you don’t feel pain during a procedure. 

If you’re getting a custom night guard to stop grinding your teeth or having a crown made, your dentist may need to take impressions of your teeth with a mold. To create a mold, a soft substance is filled in a dental tray. The tray is then fitted into your mouth, you bite down into the tray so an accurate imprint is made.

Your dentist will take yearly X-rays of your teeth to evaluate their condition, health, and make sure there are no signs of decay, gingivitis, or oral cancer. Children may require more X-rays than adults to monitor the continuous growth of their teeth. Speak with your dentist about the number of X-rays required for you.

Schedule a Dental Appointment at Kimball & Beecher

Now that you are more familiar with how common dental tools work, you can walk into your next dentist appointment with confidence. Choosing the right dentist can be a challenge, but you can count on the experienced team at Kimball & Beecher. 

We are renowned for creating stress-free and comfortable dental visits for all our patients. Many first time nervous patients become confident regulars, who love visiting their dentist. If you want a superior and soothing dental experience, schedule an appointment with us today.

About The Author

Dr. Beau Beecher, DDS

Dr. Beau Beecher is the founder and CEO, of Kimball and Beecher Family Dentistry. Kimball and Beecher Family Dentistry is known for being a patient-centered practice that puts comfort and convenience first. Over 50,000 patients in Iowa cities travel miles to experience the high level of ... read more

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