The Essential Dental Tools for Your #MedTechToolbox

With an exciting career path that has a great deal of potential, dental hygienist has a median national salary of just over $68,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Between 2010 and 2020, jobs will increase by 38 percent, far exceeding the 14 percent growth of all combined professions. Every skilled profession needs tools unique to their work, and dental hygienists are no exception. From the outset, whether viewing images, keeping records or making appointments, one of the most vital dental tools is the computer.

Tools for Assessment

When patients open their mouths for you, it's critical to reward their trust and confidence with a good periodontal assessment. Try to review their history before they even sit down in your chair. To guide your treatment plan, you can combine their history and any complaints or requests they may have with a thorough examination. The dentist may need you to take an X-ray of the patient's teeth. Most patients have a full panoramic image done every three to five years and a bitewing image annually. While capturing these images, you must wear a lead apron as protection from any incidental exposure.

Nearly all assessment examinations involve using specialized probes. Designed specifically to detect holes, large or tiny, a sickle probe is a universal must. Other probes measure gum loss, while tiny mirrors help in exploring and magnifying areas of the mouth.

Tools for Treatment

The treatment phase is the time when the greatest variety of dental hygienist tools come into use. After carefully assessing a patient's needs, a diagnosis can be made, and a treatment plan can be immediately developed and implemented. Invariably, most patient visits will require a thorough cleaning of the patient's teeth. Of course, this varies from patient to patient, with some requiring more or less of your attention. You routinely wear masks and gowns as protection against exposure to a patient's blood and saliva.

The most common dental cleaning tools include:

  • Magnifying lenses, worn separately or attached to glasses, greatly enhance your vision.
  • Bladed instruments with a variety of specialized tips and cutting surfaces, and hand scalers remove deposits on the teeth. Curettes are designed for deeper cleaning, especially below the gum line.
  • In lieu of or in conjunction with hand instruments, ultrasonic power scalers provide a gentle but very effective means for cleaning the teeth. You can add special syringes to inject either water for rinsing or air for drying tooth surfaces.
  • Among the most useful dental assistant tools is a saliva ejector. Designed to vacuum water and contaminants from your patient's mouth, this device has replaced spitting basins.
  • Among hygienists' most important tasks, patient education is aided with tools like an intraoral camera that graphically displays images of any particular problem areas for the patient. Teeth and jaw models help teach proper brushing and flossing.
  • College tweezers allow for precise placement and removal of swabs, gauze and dental implements.
  • The last dental tools used during a routine teeth cleaning are rubber-cupped applicators that apply a tooth polish and, to remove all debris between the teeth, ends with a good flossing.

Tags: Dental, Dental Assisting, dental hygiene, healthcare, medical technology

Charles R. Hooper, MSW

About Charles R. Hooper, MSW

With over 20 years experience as a medical social worker and a master's degree in social work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I have been honored to dedicate most of my professional life to service in health care. I have worked in multiple medical/nursing settings, including cardiology, orthopedics, neurology, trauma care and others. I also founded the medical social work program at a regional trauma center and a very busy emergency department. View all posts by Charles R. Hooper, MSW →