You’re sitting at the dentist’s office, wearing a bib and twiddling your thumbs, when the chair begins to recline—showtime! As the dentist wheels his chair over to begin cleaning your teeth, without moving your head you steal a quick glance at what he’s holding; it’s small, metal, and sharp, and it immediately makes you uncomfortable. You look away, diverting your glance down towards the tray that is neatly lined with similar metal tools. You recognize one that resembles a small mirror, but the rest look like they could be straight out of a horror film. These tools, as scary as they might be, when wielded in the hands of a skilled cosmetic dentist can help give you a dazzling smile. Here are a few of the most common instruments and what they are used for:
The Mouth Mirror
One of the few instruments that is easy for an outsider to identify, it is a simple, small mirror attached to the end of a rod. This mirror is primarily used to allow dentists to view places in the mouth that are normally difficult, or require physical contortion, to see. Additionally, the mirror can be used to conveniently relocate [push] the patient’s tongue to another side of the mouth, freeing up some space to work with.
The Sickle Probe
Unlike the mouth mirror, the sickle probe has an intimidating appearance, due to the sharp hook it sports on one end. This hook is primarily used to explore the pockets between the teeth, and when it’s found, to scrape away plaque and tartar. Don’t let its primitive appearance fool you; the sickle probe is necessary for modern preventive dentistry.
The Saliva Ejector (AKA Suction Device)
This one is a little comical, as it’s a long tube attached to a vacuum that is used to remove saliva from your mouth. As dentists explore and do maintenance around your teeth, they often need a dry surface to work with—the saliva ejector uses suction combined with rinsing water to clear out your mouth. It’s a lot like those vacuums they have at carwashes, but on a smaller scale; yet somehow just as loud.
The Dental Drill
If one of these tools were to star in a horror film, this one would have the top billing. The dental drill, along with its loud, foreboding hum, is the most effective way for your dentist to remove tooth decay before filling a cavity. As it spins rapidly, it shoots water into your mouth to prevent the high RPM from damaging your teeth. However, when given a local anesthetic, the patient rarely feels more than the vibrations from the drill, with no pain at all.
Even though some of these tools might appear menacing, they all have a purpose—and when in the hands of your dentist, that purpose is fulfilled, and your smile is restored.
About the Author
Dr. Shannon Stokes has been practicing family and cosmetic dentistry for over 18 years. He earned his D.D.S. from the Baylor College of Dentistry, one of the country’s best dental schools, and completed post-graduate work in various fields, including cosmetic dentistry, restorative dentistry, dental implants, and orthodontics for adults. If you have any questions about the article, dental instruments, or anything else Dr. Stokes can assist you with, he can be reached at his website or (972)-596-0200.