Dental Tools: Everything You Need To Know About The Main Ones

Going to the dentist is not usually an enjoyable experience. It’s not something most people do for fun.

Part of the unease and discomfort that’s involved in going to the dentist may be because people don’t know what to expect. They see a tray full of instruments and don’t know what they’re for.

But if you became familiar with what each tool does and how the dentist uses it, wouldn’t you be more comfortable with visiting the dentist?

Plus, it’s just good to know what a dentist is doing when they’re poking and prodding around in your mouth.

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Professional Dental Tools

Some of these tools seems scary at first — even just the names. But you’ll see that once you understand how they work, they’re actually not frightening at all.

And, as I’m sure you already know, the sterilization of dental instruments is one of the most important practices in any dental office.

Dental Examination Instruments

There are a handful of tools dentists use to simply examine your mouth. These tools are the least intimidating.

  • Mouth mirror: for examining the condition of your teeth, gums, and mouth
  • Probes: the three main types of probes are straight probe, Briault probe and periodontal probe
    • The straight probe is a sharp tool used to examine any cavities, restorations, and fillings
    • The Briault probe is a sharp tool used to examine where the enamel and dentine meet and to look for tartar
    • A periodontal probe is for different types of measurements, especially for measuring your gum pockets

Dental Cleaning Tools

The cleaning tools tend to be a bit more intimidating for patients because the dentist uses sharp tools to scrape.

  • Scalers: for removing tartar from the surface of your teeth and in gum pockets
  • Excavators: for removing softened dentine and fillings, with the back of the blade being able to place linings between fillings

Instruments Used For Placing Filling

There are two main types of dental tools used for placing fillings: plastic instruments and condenser (aka pluggers).

  • Plastic instruments (often made of stainless steel): flat-bladed tools meant for placing fillings — sometimes they have rounded ends to help with shaping fillings
  • Condensers (aka pluggers): for pushing down and forming fillings, usually used with lots of pressure

Dental Extraction Tools

One of the main tools used in extracting teeth are forceps. Although there are many types of extraction forceps, you can almost always expect the dentist to use these.

  • Upper forceps are made with handles that are in line with the blade (a type of straight forceps)
  • Lower forceps are made with handles that are at a 90-degree angle to the blade
  • Upper premolar forceps have handles that are angled in such a way that make it perfect for accessing the premolars without touching the lower lip or teeth
  • Lower root forceps are at about a 90-degree angle, allowing for optimal power and control in the dentist’s hand
  • Lower molar forceps has a twin beak on either side to correspond with the lower molars’ two mesial roots
  • Upper molar forceps have twin beaks and as well as a single blade to match the two buccal roots and one palatal root of the upper molars.
  • Bayonet forceps have longer blades so they can reach further back into the mouth
  • Cowhorn forceps are meant to reach in between the molar roots

On top of the different types of forceps, dentists also have a slew of other tools available for pulling a tooth:

  • Elevators: used to get between the tooth and the bone and apply force, keeping the pressure off of the jaw (less likely for bone or tooth to fracture)
  • Periosteal elevators: like a standard elevator but with two heads — one on each end of the tool — one sharp and one blunt
  • Scalpel: used to make an incision in the gums for access to the tooth
  • Retractors: used to push the tongue out of the way for access to the tooth
  • Surgical burs: used for removing bone around a tooth that the dentist will be extracting or splitting in half
  • Bone curettes: used for removing granulation tissue from the tooth socket
  • Bone rongeur and bone file: used for smoothing out sharp edges of a bone post-extraction
  • Needle holders and sutures: used for replacing and securing the gum flap that had been cut open to access the tooth
  • Scissors: used for cutting sutures
  • Artery forceps: used for holding and lifting soft tissue with minimal damage
  • Aspirator: a suction tip used to aspirate blood and saliva

Dental Surgical Instruments

When it comes surgery, dental professionals have to have the utmost care. And that’s why they use specific instruments that allow them to be as precise as possible.

These are the main surgical instruments a dentist or oral surgeon will use:

  • Handpiece (aka a drill): used for getting rid of decay, tooth preparation, and reconstruction of teeth
  • Amalgam carrier: a tool with a small tube on one end and a big tube on the other that’s used to fill tooth cavities with amalgam — the dental assistant fills it with amalgam and hands it to the dentist for the filling process
  • Plugger: used to pack down the amalgam filling, ensuring that all air pockets are dispersed and the maximum amount of filling is used
  • Carver: used to create crevices in the surface of a filled tooth so that it fits perfectly with the corresponding tooth of the upper jaw, making the patient’s bite natural and comfortable
  • Spatula: used to mix a solution with a powder, creating a mixture that will glue the crown to the tooth (or used to mix temporary filling materials)

Dental Tool To Keep Mouth Open

The dental tool that holds open your mouth while the dentist works is called a mouth prop or a bite block, used with both adult and child patients.

It may make the patient feel silly, but it’s a necessary tool.

The patient can bite down on a bite block without worrying that it will break. And the dentist doesn’t have to worry about the mouth accidentally closing in the middle of cleaning or a procedure.

Dental tools can be broken down into six groups: examination tools, cleaning tools, tools for fillings, extraction tools, surgical tools, and tools that help keep the mouth open.

Home Dental Tools

Not all dental tools are solely for dentists — you can get some home dental tools to keep your mouth in tip-top shape. Here are some of the dental hygiene instruments you can use at home.

Here are some of the dental hygiene instruments you can use at home.


Whether you have a manual toothbrush or a electric toothbrush, the point is to scrub away bacteria and food particles. This prevents plaque buildup, tartar, and tooth decay.


You can use floss, or you could get a flosser, which is basically just floss on the end of a small plastic handle. This makes it more convenient, less messy, and helps you floss those hard-to-reach teeth.

Water flosser

A water flosser, like Waterpik, is a tool that shoots a high-pressure stream of water. You run this stream of water along and in between all of your teeth and “floss” with the water power.

Ultrasonic cleaner

An ultrasonic cleaner is like a mini washing machine but for your dentures, retainer, or jewelry. Using water, vibrations, and sterilization methods, these help keep your oral prostheses clean.

Tongue scraper

The tongue is a breeding ground of bacteria, which can quickly lead to bad breath. Using a tongue scraper to literally scrape the surface of your tongue can cut down on the bacteria in your mouth and any bad breath you may have.

Where You Can Buy Dental Tools

The best place to start is with your dentist. They should be able to recommend specific brands and models of each home dental tool and where you can buy them.

But you can also find any of these products at stores like Amazon, WalMart, Target, and any similar stores.

Dental cleaning tools that you can use at home include a toothbrush, dental floss, a water flosser, ultrasonic cleaner, a tongue scraper, and more.


Hopefully, now you’ll be less concerned going to the dentist. Now that you know exactly what to expect in terms of the tools the dentist will use, that should quell some of your fear.