Basic Dental Tools

dentist image by Sandor Kacso from

In the United States, basic dental tools have been in use since the Colonial Era, when many American households owned a "dental key" for home tooth extraction.

Since the field of dentistry was modernised in the 18th and 19th centuries, dentistry has undergone many technological advances, and dentists now use high-tech tools such as 3D X-ray scanners. However, in addition to advanced dental tools, dentists and dental hygienists still rely on several basic instruments--mostly metal hand tools--in their everyday practices.

Mouth Mirror

According to the book, "Basic Guide to Dental Instruments," dentists use mouth mirrors to provide indirect vision and magnification to teeth and gums, and to reflect light into a patient's mouth during a dental examination. Dental mirrors may be single- or double-sided, can be disposable or not, and can be plain or magnifying.

Sickle and Nabers Probes

Dentists use several types of probes to examine teeth and gum tissue. According to "Basic Guide to Dental Instruments," the pointed tips of both the sickle/contra-angled probe and the Nabers probe allow tactile sensitivity useful for dental examination. Dentists use the sickle and Nabers probes for the detection of cavities, pits, fissures, and defective crowns or bridges. These probes come in several different styles and can be single- or double-ended.

Periodontal Probe

The periodontal probe is used to examine the gums. As described in "Basic Guide to Dental Instruments," the periodontal probe measures the depth of periodontal pockets. Periodontal probes can be single-ended or double-ended, metal or plastic, and may be straight, or have curved or right angles.

Briault Probe

The Briault probe is used in the detection of cavities on mesial or distal tooth surfaces. This probe has two angled ends useful in detecting decay between teeth, according to "Basic Guide to Dental Instruments."

College Tweezers

Dental tweezers, called "college tweezers," can be used for "placing small objects in the mouth and retrieving small objects from the mouth," according to "Basic Guide to Dental Instruments." College tweezers may "lock" to prevent dropping materials though they also come in nonlocking varieties. The working ends of college tweezers can be straight or curved, and serrated or smooth.


Dentists also use metal or plastic rulers to measure length during dental examinations. These rulers may be calibrated for different units of measurement.

Basic Safety Tools

In addition to the above-mentioned basic hand tools, dentists and dental hygienists also use basic safety tools to protect themselves from debris and bacteria during dental examinations. According to the website Dentist-tools, most dentists and hygienists use masks, protective gloves, glasses, and face shields during dental procedures. These tools protect the dentist from debris, microorganisms and chemicals.