Maintaining a sound oral hygiene program has multiple advantages, and while daily brushing and flossing are the basis of good dental health, dentists recommend a professional cleaning at least twice a year. Visiting a dental hygienist is usually not particularly uncomfortable, partly because of the teeth cleaning tools they use. Here are the names and functions of some standard dental tools you'll see during an average cleaning appointment.
A dental mirror is the single most important tool for both dentists and hygienists. Without it, they would find it difficult to examine the lingual surfaces of your teeth or the gum tissue at the back of the mouth. Mirrors can be made of metal or fiber glass frames with high tech surfaces such as a rhodium-plated mirror that avoids image distortion.
By reflecting the light from above, dental mirrors help to illuminate the interior of your mouth, which enables the hygienist to identify calculus deposits more easily, according to RDH Magazine. Some mirrors have a concave shape that offers magnification capabilities to help the hygienist spot even the smallest deposits.
Handles are typically made out of a stainless steel material or some out of a resin material. While some mirrors are reusable, others are lightweight and disposable for easier manipulation and reduced wrist fatigue.
Scalers are hand-held scalers are metal teeth cleaning tools that scrape off the plaque and calculus (tartar) from the teeth. The pointed end is used for the section of the tooth above the gum line, while the curved blunt end is used to reach below the gumline without injuring the gum tissue.
Most dental hygienists usually begin with an ultrasonic scaler which helps to remove plaque and tartar while using a water spray to cool the tip of the instrument and irrigating the mouth. These come in two models called magnetostrictive and piezoelectric versions, which have different frequencies and tip movement but have been shown to deliver almost identical clinical results, according to RDH Magazine. The scaler hand instruments are used next to remove any plaque and tartar that remains on the teeth.
The magnostrictive model of ultrasonic scalers may not be used in patients with who have cardiac pacemakers implanted because they can cause interference with the pacemaker.
After the hygienist has removed the plaque and tartar from your teeth, the next step is polishing each tooth to ensure it's as white and shiny as possible. The most commonly used polishers are prophy angles, which are small rubber cups fitted to a low-speed rotary electric polishing tool. Used with an mild to moderate abrasive paste, these buff away uneven areas on the teeth leaving the entire surface smooth and clean. This makes it easier for healthy gum tissue to attach to the tooth surface. Polishing is completed after ultrasonic scaling and hand scaling.
4. Begin With a Rinse
Regardless of the teeth cleaning tools your hygienist uses, a professional cleaning will usually begin with a pre-procedural rinse using a product such as Colgate Total Advanced Pro-Shield mouthwash, which kills 99% of germs on contact. This improves the safety of the procedure for both the dental hygienist and patient. So next time you're sitting in the dental chair and you see the tray of tools the hygienist intends to use during your appointment, you can rest assured that you are in good hands and she is there to clean your mouth in a comfortable and healthy way.