What Tools Do Dentists Use to Clean Teeth?

Dental hygienists often use tools such as handheld and ultrasonic scrapers to clear plaque and tartar buildup off of teeth, according to The Nest. They also use polishers to clean the teeth and X-rays to obtain images of tooth alignment, jaw health and to detect the presence of cavities.

Routine dental cleanings are generally painless, but some patients experience considerable anxiety during dentist appointments and are especially susceptible to pain, notes The Nest. In these cases, a dental hygienist may need to use a needle to inject a local anaesthetic into a patient's gums and lips to numb the individual's mouth. This is also necessary for patients who require an in-depth cleaning, which can create more pain than usual.

The most common types of scalers are hand-held and come in two different shapes to serve distinct purposes, according to Cheryl Hosmer from the Chron. One is pointed on both ends to scrape tartar off exposed teeth, and the second scaler is designed with blunt ends so it can reach below the gum line without causing pain. Ultrasonic scalers rely on multiple sound waves that vibrate in rapid succession to create oscillations that remove plaque and tarter from the teeth. They are not safe to use on patients who are infected with human immunodeficiency virus or hepatitis, because they can shake bodily fluids out of the mouth and pose a threat to dental staff.