Maple Leaf Dental

Getting to Know the Tools of the Trade

Tools of the Trade

Does the sight of strange shiny tools in your dentist’s office make you start to tense up? The whirring sound of the drill and the sharpness of a dental pick can be very frightening, and might even be behind your fear of going to the dentist. There are ways to help this situation, though.

Fear of the unknown always makes a nervous situation even worse, but learning about the things that scare you can help you to relax and be less anxious before your dental appointments. Calm your jangled nerves by learning what those tools are and how your dentist will use them.


Probably the least scary tool in your dentist’s office, the mouth mirror is essentially a small round mirror on a stick. The mouth mirror makes is easier to see the inside of your teeth and other weird angles in your mouth. In addition, she’ll probably multitask with it and use the mouth mirror to move your tongue out of the way during certain parts of the examination. Much more comfortable than using her fingers, right?


One of the scarier-looking dental tools is the sickle probe, a long handle with a sharp hook at the end. It may look frightening, but it’s key in finding cavities and periodontal disease. Despite how a sickle probe looks, it’s not meant to stab you. Your dentist will use it to investigate the small pockets between your teeth as well as scraping away moderate amounts of plaque and tartar. She may also use it to investigate any cavities you may have formed.


One of the least intimidating tools your dentist will use, the saliva ejector can sometimes even be the source of a small laugh. This suction device is meant to remove the saliva from your mouth, in order to dry the surface your dentist is working on. Position it wrong, and it can attach itself to your tongue or the inside of your cheek like an octopus. It’s a gentle suction, though, and can’t cause you any pain or damage.


Your dentist uses the sickle probe to remove small amounts of plaque and tartar. If you’ve got a larger amount built up, or if you have full-on periodontal disease, she’ll use the scaler to remove the excess. While this might not be the most pleasant experience in your day, it’s a crucial step toward saving your teeth and restoring your oral health.


What’s the scariest tool in the dentist’s office? Most patients with dental phobia will put the dental drill at the top of their list. While its operation might make you nervous, the dental drill is the best tool for removing tooth decay before your dentist fills a cavity. The drill spins at 250,000 RPM, and shoots water out of the end at the same time. This allows the area being drilled to stay cool despite the heat generated from friction and to stay clean by rinsing away bits of decay. Your dentist will administer anesthetic before using the drill, so while the vibrations might feel weird, the experience won’t hurt.


While the dental syringe might look scary, especially if you have a general fear of needles, it’s really one of the dental tools you should most appreciate. Your dentist will use it to administer anesthetic before working on your teeth, allowing the gums and surrounding area to be completely numb and pain-free. If you’re still frightened of the pain of feeling a needle stick, she can even use numbing gel, applied with a cotton swab, to your gums before using the syringe.

Not knowing what to expect can make you imagine the worst about the dentist, but skipping your regular dental care can be dangerous to your oral health. Today’s skipped cleaning can easily turn into next month’s tartar and next year’s missing teeth. Instead of letting fear keep you away from the dentist’s office, talk to her to find out what else you can do to help reduce these fears.