To browse through a catalog of dental instruments is to take a journey back in time to the 19th century — or so it seems. There are pliers, wire cutters, probes, picks, awls, forceps, extracting forceps. After a few minutes, it’s easy to let your imagination run away with you, especially if you’ve always wanted to be a screenwriter.
However, looks can be deceiving. Yes, the essential function of dental instruments has changed little over the years, but the instruments themselves have evolved to be quite sophisticated. Today we have access to sterile, comfortable dental care thanks in part to precision machining. And while you may not want to dwell on the thought of a dental drill, drilling is a normal part of machining dental instruments and tools.
The Dental Instruments Behind Perfect Teeth
One of the most basic dental tools is a dental mirror. It’s how your dentist takes a good look at the inside of your mouth. E.B. Hitchcock filed one of the first patents for a mouth mirror in 1894. A dental mirror needs to be sturdy enough to withstand repeated use but inexpensive enough to be replaced as often as needed.
The mouth mirror helps your dentist to position other tools such as a sickle probe. The sickle probe’s purpose is preventive dentistry and it’s used to explore the pockets between your teeth. It’s effective at removing small amounts of plaque and tartar because the hook ends are precisely machined to very tight tolerances.
Another common dental tool is the scaler. It’s also a dental handpiece that is used to remove plaque and tartar from your teeth. It’s used for deep cleaning above and below the gum line. The pointed end is used above the gums and the blunt end is used below the gums. As with the sickle probe, this tool must be manufactured to very precise specifications to do its job properly.
In those instances where a cavity has to be filled, the dentist uses amalgam, a dental filling material that has been used for more than 150 years. It’s a mixture of metals and once it hardens into a solid filling, it must be smoothed. Your dentist uses a tool called a burnisher to smooth the amalgam and remove any irregularities.