dental tools

Dental Tools

dental tools


Among the most fascinating (and frightening) things—especially for children—in our Lifetime Family Dental office in Gilbert is the vast array of dental tools we have for cleaning and restoring teeth. There are sharp pointy implements, flat wooden devices, and drills that look like cranes. There are fluorescent displays and bright lights, and x-ray machines that look like something from Star Wars. When you understand how these tools are used, it can remove some dental anxiety. So what are all these shiny tools we use, and what are their purposes?

Mouth Mirror

This important tool is actually very simple. It’s the small round mirror on a stick that the dentist uses to see the back side of your teeth. Without it, the dentist would be hard pressed to find all the bacterial hiding places that can cause cavities. It is also used to move your tongue or cheek out of the way so he/she can see better. A mouth mirror can reflect light to enhance what the dentist sees. Your dental hygienist will use a mouth mirror for the same reasons. It makes it easier to remove the plaque and tartar that can build up between cleanings.

Dental Probe

A dental explorer, sometimes called a sickle probe, is a sharp instrument that allows the dentist to feel how healthy the soft gum tissue is. It is also used to reach in between teeth to remove plaque and tartar.

A periodontal probe is a tapered instrument with a blunt end. It is used to measure the depth of the tooth pocket from the gum to the bone. It is also used to measure the distance between the tooth and the gum. This measurement will help diagnose early gum disease or recession.

Dental Scaler

A scaler is like a sickle probe, but it is used for heavier buildup of plaque. Mostly, it is used on the flat surfaces of a tooth. It might be slightly uncomfortable, but it will help you keep your teeth.


When your dentist needs to do dental work in hard-to-reach areas in the mouth, he/she sometimes uses a retractor or two. There are cheek, tongue and lip retractors whose jobs are to keep these out of the way so the dentist can have room to maneuver. If you feel like your face is being stretched out of shape, it is! But it is only temporary and the discomfort will be gone in an hour.

Saliva Ejector

This is the instrument that the dentist will hang on your lower jaw while he/she is working. It sucks the saliva from your mouth to create a dry surface for the dentist to work on. It works best when your mouth is closed, so from time to time you will be asked to close your mouth—though of course it won’t be long until we ask you to “open wide” again!

Dental Drill

Here is the big one. It is not so big in size, but it causes the most dental anxiety for many patients. While dental drills sound scary and can rattle your teeth, you shouldn’t feel any pain with a local anesthetic.

The drill has two parts: a hand piece, and a bur. The hand piece is the motor component, usually driven by air. The bur is the spinning element that removes the diseased bits of teeth. Burs come in different shapes and sizes depending on the width and depth of the cavity. Burs are also used to polish your teeth, and to shape crowns and dentures for a perfect bite.


Very few people like to get an injection, especially in a tender area like your mouth. But the pain of receiving a novocaine injection is minimal when a topical anesthetic is used prior to the shot. You may feel a prick at first, followed by a slight feeling of discomfort as the anesthetic is injected. But as the anesthetic takes hold, the pain will go away. For patients with moderate or extreme anxiety, a variety of sedatives are available to ease severe anxiety. Ask us about this at your next appointment if you think you might need it.

Give us a Call

We have covered only a few of the dental tools of the trade. There are also excavators, burnishers, pluggers, forceps, and much more. Now that you understand more about some of the tools we use, we hope some of your dental anxiety is relieved. We would be happy to answer any further questions you have about any of our tools or procedures. Call Lifetime Family Dental in Gilbert today to schedule a cleaning and exam. We have flexible payment plans and flexible hours for your convenience. The health of your mouth is an integral part of your overall health—make your dental hygiene a priority today.



Images used under creative commons license (Commerical Use) 06/13/2020  Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst