Dental Cleaning Tools

Many people avoid going to the dentist because they dislike the tools dentists use during exams and corrective therapy. However, regular dental visits are an important part of dental care and oral health. During a dental checkup at Blanco Crossing Dental, we examine your throat, gums, tongue, lips, jaws, and teeth.  As part of this process, we look for signs of decay, disease, and even early signs of oral cancer.  We also recommend dental cleanings twice a year to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

A dental hygienist, a specialist trained in oral health care, performs much of the dental cleaning before the dentist completes the exam. Hygienists use specialized tools that remove deposits from teeth, clean gums, and polish the enamel. As part of a dental checkup, we may request X-rays or other tests to further evaluate your teeth and mouth.

Here, we explain several of the dental tools we use during a dental cleaning session and what they do. Each has a specific function that helps us make sure you have clean teeth, healthy gums, and a sparkling smile.


We use a dental mirror to examine all the surfaces of each tooth, the roof of your mouth, down your throat, your tongue, and the tissues of your lips and cheeks. Mirrors allow us to see behind your teeth, the surfaces of teeth next to the gum and the gums at the back of your mouth. We shine a bright light to reflect off the mirror to look for deposits, pockets between teeth and gums, swelling, and other irregularities that should be attended. This also allows us to see if there is decay between your teeth, or if you’re experiencing the early stages of gum disease.

We use high-quality, reflecting surface mirrors that show a clear image of each tooth. We may also use concave mirrors that magnify areas we want to examine more closely. We use mirrors to hold your tongue, lips or cheeks out of the way so that we can examine areas that are difficult to see.


Even with regular brushing and flossing, soft plaque gradually builds up. Plaque is a sticky film that develops when you eat and drink. It combines with saliva, food, and liquids to produce bacteria that become acidic and break down tooth enamel. Eventually, plaque hardens into tartar, a deposit of mineralized calcium that allows bacteria to grow beneath it. Tartar adheres to the surface of teeth, including areas under the gum line. It may be visible as yellow or brown stains. Although you can control plaque by brushing and flossing, tartar must be removed by a dental professional. Our hygienist removes tartar by carefully scraping deposits from the surface of each tooth using scalers.

Powered and Hand-Held Scalers

There are two types of scalers:  powered and hand-held. Powered scalers use ultrasonic frequencies to remove plaque and tartar deposits from your teeth and areas just below the gum line. We spray water and air into your mouth to cool the instrument, wash deposits away, and clean your teeth. Patients usually find this treatment comfortable.

Hand-held scalers are metal instruments with sharp, pointed ends. We use these to scrape deposits from the surfaces of your teeth. There are several types of scalers that let us reach all the areas of your teeth and gums. They are also used to remove deposits from just below the gum line, an important step in preventing and treating gum disease.

Saliva Ejectors

You are probably familiar with saliva ejectors, also known as spit suckers. They suction saliva, water, blood, and deposits from your mouth during cleaning and other procedures. Saliva ejectors keep you from swallowing these materials.

A saliva ejector is made from a disposable tube that looks like a bent straw that goes into your mouth. This connects to a longer tube that evacuates liquids and particulates. Removing these elements helps keep your mouth clean and comfortable as our dental hygienist cleans your teeth. Saliva ejectors are used by the dentist during other procedures, including fillings, extractions, and orthodontic work. The permanent tubing is flushed and sanitized after each patient to prevent cross-contamination.


After cleaning teeth, the hygienist polishes each tooth with a polisher. Polishing is an important step in keeping your gums and teeth healthy. Polishers are stainless steel air-driven, hand-held electrical  devices. They smooth the tooth’s surface, which makes it easier for gums to adhere to the tooth. A rubber cap on the end of the polisher is filled with a mildly abrasive paste. The cap spins to apply the paste, which removes stains and any remaining tartar.

Computer Imagery

We may also use computers to help us evaluate your oral health and diagnose problems. X-rays are an important tool in evaluating the health of each tooth, jaws and surrounding bones. Traditional X-rays use a low dose of radiation to create an image on film.

Digital X-rays use a far lower dose of radiation to record an image, which is sent directly to a computer instead of recorded on film. We can view the image on the computer, store it, and print it out if needed. The image can be enlarged or enhanced if we need to see specific areas of the tooth in greater detail. In addition, the image can be transmitted to another dentist or specialist if a second opinion or further evaluation is required. Digital X-rays also help us evaluate changes to your teeth and bones that occur over time.

Dental Floss

Foss is an important tool for professionals and patients. Often, plaque clings to the spaces between teeth even after cleaning. After polishing your teeth during a cleaning session, our hygienists will floss your teeth to make sure you leave our office with a thoroughly clean mouth and a bright smile. We show you how to floss effectively so that you can maintain healthy teeth and gums between visits.  Proper flossing can be an effective deterrent against gum disease.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I remove tartar by myself (without going to the dentist)?

No.  Removing tartar requires scalers – which are very sharp.  Attempting to remove tartar yourself using scalers is likely to result in injury and damage to your teeth and gums.  Dental Hygienists are required to have at least an Associate’s degree in order to become a registered dental hygienist.

Can I scrape plaque off my teeth?

No.  Scrapers and similar tooth cleaners are not for the DIY removal of plaque.   The best ways for you to remove plaque from your teeth by yourself are through flossing and brushing.  Flossing followed by brushing is effective in removing plaque and minimizing plaque buildup that will eventually turn into tartar.

About Our Dental Office

Blanco Crossing Dental of San Antonio, Texas, was founded by Dr. Ghias Jabbour, DDS, who has been practicing dentistry since 1995. We strive to provide the highest level of oral care and we put you at ease during your teeth cleaning. If you are anxious about dental treatment, please let us know. We are always happy to explain what we will do before we start. We will show you the dental tools and instruments we plan to use and ask you to let us know if you experience discomfort during treatment.

We also offer several relaxation and oral sedation. Please let our staff know if you experience anxiety about dental treatment. When you are relaxed, it is easier for us to help you have a positive experience and maintain oral health.