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What Tools Does a Dental Hygienist Use?

We’re all familiar with what it feels like to have our teeth cleaned: some looking, some buzzing, some scraping, some polishing, some flossing, and then we’re on our way home to enjoy another spring day in Madison. But if during the buzzing and scraping you’ve ever wondered, what tools does a dental hygienist use? and couldn’t ask because you had an instrument in your mouth, here are some of the tools of the trade hygienists use to keep your teeth clean and bright.
  • Mirrors 
  • Computer Imaging and Periodontal Probe
  • Ultrasonic and Hand Scalers
  • Suction
  • Polisher
  • Floss and Fluoride
  • Mirrors 
The first instrument in your hygienist’s toolkit are mirrors. Mirrors help him or her get a good look at all the surfaces of your teeth, especially the hard-to-see surfaces, like behind the teeth. They also reflect light to the surfaces, giving the hygienist a clear view of any plaque, tartar, tooth decay, gum disease, or other oral health disease. Mirrors are also useful for pulling away the cheek and tongue to check for these issues.

Computer Imaging and Periodontal Probe

Your hygienist may also scan your mouth, using computer imaging to look for fractures in the teeth, dental work that’s broken down, tartar, and inflammation of the gums. Additionally, he or she may use a metal instrument called a periodontal probe between your tooth and gums to measure the health of your gums. This very small ruler measures any pockets in the gum. The deeper the pocket, the more likely that is an area of gum disease.

Ultrasonic and Hand Scalers

After the looking comes the scalers to remove any plaque and tartar the hygienist sees. If you have plaque, don’t feel bad! Even with regular brushing and flossing, plaque can still build up on the teeth. The first instrument your hygienist might take out is the ultrasonic scaler. Hooked up to a water line, the ultrasonic scaler uses ultrasonic vibrations and pressurized water to clean the teeth. It does a great job of gently removing plaque, tartar, and stains from the surfaces of the tooth, both over and under the gum line. It has a rounded metal tip unlike the sharp tip of a hand scaler. So remember: when you feel the buzzing begin, that’s just the ultrasonic scaler! Next comes the hand scaler. Its curved, sharp end helps the hygienist remove any remaining plaque or tartar left behind from the ultrasonic scaler. Although the scraping sounds awful, don’t fear: your enamel is safe! Hygienists train for years to learn how to remove plaque and tartar from the teeth without damaging teeth and gums. In fact, far from harming the enamel, hand scaling is great for enamel because it removes harmful plaque and tartar that will damage the enamel through decay and infection. 


During the ultrasonic cleaning, the hygienist will also give you a clear plastic tube with a lever to control suction. This suction is used to remove any excess water, saliva and debris from your mouth during the cleaning to keep you comfortable.  


Next, the hygienist uses a polisher to remove any final stains or debris from your teeth to create that super smooth finish on your teeth–the best part of the check-up! Not only does it feel great, this smooth finish on your teeth helps keep plaque from forming again.

Floss and Fluoride

Finally, your hygienist will finish the cleaning with string floss. Pay attention to how your hygienist does it and try to replicate it at home. You might also be eligible for a fluoride treatment, which will further fortify your enamel against decay.

Dental Cleanings in Madison, Wisconsin

We hope we took a little of the mystery out of your next dental cleaning! We recommend having a routine check-up and cleaning done at least every six months to stay on top of your oral health. If you’re due for a cleaning, please contact us today. Affiliated Dentists offers general, cosmetic, and restorative dentistry, including dental cleanings in Madison, Wisconsin.

What Tools Does a Dental Hygienist Use? brought to you by Dr. Mark Gustavson  

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