Uses of main Families of Dental Instruments

The reason behind a perfect smile is a dental instrument that did its job right!


For any dental extraordinaire, knowing the proper use of dental instruments is key to a successful dental treatment. Identifying the instruments is not enough if the dental surgeon or hygienist has no clue about where and how to use them.

The four leading families of the dental instruments cover a wide array of tools, such as:

1.     Examination instruments

This family of dental instruments is used to perform a thorough clinical examination on the soft and hard tissues inside the patient’s mouth. The better the examination, the more accurate the diagnosis is.

  • Mouth mirror: It is a small handheld, a concave dental mirror that assists in direct and indirect vision to inspect the oral cavity. Therefore, it allows the dentist to pinpoint even the sneakiest cavities or lesions that the naked eye may miss.
  • Dental probe: Sometimes, a black discoloration may be misdiagnosed as dental caries, or plaque or tartar can hide a carious lesion beneath them. Therefore, a dental probe helps prod any caries and its depth just by running over the tooth surface.
  • Tweezers: They are used to insert or remove cotton or other medicaments in the patient’s mouth. They may also hold smaller objects like a GP stick or other instruments.

2.     Hand-cutting instruments

These dental instruments are usually used for manual caries removal and cavity preparation.

  • Chisel: during the cavity preparation, the chisel is used to break or remove any enamel margins, form sharp angles (line angles and point angles) and place retention groves to aid in a more substantial restoration.
  • Excavator: spoon excavators are used to gradually scoop out all caries and clean the cavity of any debris.
  • Elevators: They are used to loosen a tooth to be removed/ pulled out of the mouth.
  • Gingival Marginal Trimmer: This dental tool smooths the enamel margins/walls during cavity preparation.
  • Hand Piece: Commonly known as the dental drill, it allows caries removal during a restoration, pulp access during a root canal treatment, and bone drilling for surgical procedures.
  • Hoe and hatchet: They are used to smoothen and plane the walls and base during cavity preparation.
  • Scalars (manual and ultrasonic): They are used to perform dental cleaning (scaling) to remove all the plaque and calculus (tartar) for every surface of every tooth in the patient’s mouth.
  • Wilson: It is used to hold the gums during a tooth extraction.


3.     Restorative Instruments

These dental instruments aid in placing, carving, and condensing the filling material into the prepared tooth cavity.

  • Amalgam Carrier: As the name describes, this instrument is used to carry amalgam and place it into the prepared cavity
  • Burnisher: To smooth and level the surface of amalgam restoration
  • To pack and tightly condense the restorative material in the cavity
  • Composite Placement Instrument: to place composite (another restorative material)into the prepared cavity)
  • Carvers: to remove any excess and build contours to carve anatomy similar to the natural tooth.
  • Woodson: to carry various dental materials to the tooth


4.     Dental Instrument Accessories:

They are the extra or miscellaneous armamentariums that help to complete any dental procedure.

  • Air & Water Syringes: A triple syringe is also used to dry the tooth surface, blow out or wash away any residue or debris in the mouth.
  • Articulating Paper Holder: It is used to place the articulating paper in the mouth to check for high spots in a new dental filling, a crown, denture, or bridge
  • Mouth Prop: It is a wedge-shaped bite block used in patients who have difficulty opening their mouths widely.
  • Retractors: They are used to retract the tongue, cheek, or lips away to provide unobscured access for a dental procedure.
  • Scissors: To cut the sutures, rubber dam, retractions cord
  • Spatula: To mix several dental materials
  • Syringe and needles: To inject local anesthesia or analgesic into the gums around the tooth to eliminate the pain by numbing the patient


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