Fraud Blocker Dental Hygienist Cleaning Tools Used During A Hygiene Appointment

What Dental Cleaning Tools Does a Hygienist Use?

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Dental Instruments Used to Keep Your Mouth Healthy

Many people avoid going to the dentist because they dislike the dental tools dentists use during exams and corrective therapy. However, regular dental visits are an important part of dental care and oral health. The American Dental Association recommends visiting the dentist for regular checkups. This should be at least once a year, and twice a year for most people in order to maintain dental health and to help to prevent more serious problems like tooth loss.

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 coming in for a routine dental cleaning twice a year to maintain good dental hygiene and keep your teeth and gums healthy.

A dental hygienist, a specialist trained in oral health care, performs much of the dental cleaning in Stone Oak at our office before the dentist completes the exam. They use specialized dental hygienist tools as part of a professional cleaning that removes deposits from teeth, cleans gums, and polishes 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.


When it comes to teeth cleaning tools, it isn’t all about the tools that do the actual cleaning of the teeth.  Before we can get started on the cleaning process, we need to get a better look at the current state of your mouth and teeth.  That’s where mirrors come in.

A dental mirror is a dental instrument that we use 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.

How a Hygienist Positions a Dental Mirror to See the Hard to Reach Places in Your Mouth

We utilize high quality mirrors with bright, reflective surfaces to provide a precise image of each tooth. Additionally, concave mirrors are utilized to enlarge specific areas for closer examination. Mirrors are employed to assist in positioning your tongue, lips, or cheeks to allow us to thoroughly inspect hard-to-reach areas.

Dental mirrors make it possible to see teeth from multiple hard-to-see angles


Scalers are the teeth cleaning tools that actually remove the unwanted buildup on your teeth and help you to maintain your overall oral hygiene. 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, this dental plaque hardens into tartar, a deposit of mineralized calcium that allows nasty, potentially harmful 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. To minimize the possibility of tooth decay gum tissue getting infected, our hygienist removes tartar by carefully scraping deposits from the surface of each tooth using a dental scaler.

Powered and Hand-Held Scalers

There are two types of scalers: powered and hand-held. A powered scaler is a dental tool that functions as an ultrasonic cleaner for your teeth. It not only works as a very effective plaque remover, but it also makes use of ultrasonic frequencies to remove 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 dental cleaning tools 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.

An ultrasonic scaler is highly effective at tartar and plaque removal

Saliva Ejectors

From previous trips to your dentist, you’re almost certainly familiar with saliva ejectors, which are also referred to as spit suckers. Sure, it sounds kind of gross, but they’re an essential part of the teeth cleaning process.

They are used to suction saliva, water, blood, and debris that is generated from the cleaning process from your mouth during dental cleanings and other procedures, preventing you from ingesting these materials.

A saliva ejector consists of a disposable tube resembling a curved straw that is inserted into your mouth. This tube is connected to a longer one that removes liquids and particles. By eliminating these substances, your mouth stays clean and comfortable while the dental hygienist works on cleaning your teeth. Saliva ejectors are utilized by dentists during various procedures such as fillings, extractions, and orthodontic treatments. The permanent tubing is cleaned and disinfected after each patient to avoid any cross-contamination.


Our final entrant in the list of powered teeth cleaning tools is the polisher.  A polisher is a dental handpiece that allows your hygienist to polish each tooth.
Polishing is an important step in keeping your gums and teeth healthy and is essential for maintaining oral hygiene. Polishers are stainless steel air-driven, hand-held electrical devices.
They smooth the tooth 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.
Using a Dental Polisher as Part of a Professional Teeth Cleaning

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.
Digital Dental X-Rays Provide a Detailed Look at a Patient's Teeth and Jaw

Dental Floss

Dental Floss 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.

At Home Tool #1: Your Electric Toothbrush

The focus of this article is what the dental hygienist uses to keep your teeth clean – but there are also tools that you can use at home in order to keep plaque at bay and maintain your overall oral health.

The first tool is the electric tooth brush.  Yes – electric toothbrushes – not the old fashioned manual toothbrushes are the front line of defense for teeth cleaning tools.

While most of this article covers tools that your dental offices uses to clean teeth, there are plenty of steps you can take at home to maintain your oral hygiene.  Electric toothbrushes are the two main teeth cleaning tools in your arsenal that you can use to maintain a healthy mouth.

Our dentist, Dr. Jabbour is a big proponent of electric toothbrushes for the following reasons:

  • Better at Removing Plaque: Electric toothbrushes are generally more effective at removing plaque compared to manual toothbrushes. Their bristle movement, which can be oscillating-rotating or sonic, helps to break down plaque and sweep it away from teeth and gums.  The more plaque you’re able to remove from your teeth at home can possibly result in less time in the dental chair while you get your teeth cleaned.
  • Effective Bristle Motion: The automatic bristle movements ensure a consistent brushing technique, which can be particularly beneficial for individuals who may not have the dexterity or technique to brush effectively with a manual toothbrush. It is hard to replicate these effective motions with a manual toothbrush.
  • Built-in Timers: Most modern electric toothbrushes come with built in timers to help users brush for the ADA recommended two minutes (30 seconds for each section of your mouth). This can help ensure that all areas of the mouth receive adequate attention.
  • Pressure Sensors to Protect Your Gums: Some electric toothbrush models have onboard pressure sensors that will alert you if you’re brushing too hard. This feature can help prevent gum recession and wear on the enamel.
  • Easier to Keep Braces Clean: For those with braces or other orthodontic treatments, electric toothbrushes can be particularly effective in cleaning around brackets and wires.

At Home Tool #2: Your Water Flosser

While a water flosser may not serve as a complete replacement for traditional flossing, these powered flossers do offer many benefits. Be sure to discuss with your dentist for more information.

Beneifts of a water flosser:
  • Plaque Removal: Water flossers use a stream of pulsating water to remove food particles, bacteria, and plaque from between teeth and below the gumline, areas that are sometimes difficult to reach with traditional floss.
  • More Gentle on Gums than thread or tape dental floss: If you have sensitive gums or experience pain or bleeding with traditional flossing, water flossers can be a gentler alternative that still effectively clean spaces in between teeth.
  • Works Well with Braces and Other Dental Work: Patients with braces, bridges, crowns, or dental implants may find it challenging to use traditional floss.Water flossers can clean around these structures more easily and effectively.
  • Encourages Regular Flossing: Some individuals may be more inclined to use a water flosser regularly because they find it more convenient or enjoyable compared to traditional floss.
Proper Use of a Waterpik Cordless Select Water Flosser

Frequently Asked Questions

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

No. Removing tartar requires dental 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. Plaque scrapers and similar tooth cleaners are not for the DIY removal of plaque. These are for hygienists when performing a professional teeth cleaning. 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.
Floss Regularly to Keep Plaque From Forming

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.

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We accept most major insurance, cash, most credit cards, and offer patient financing with CareCredit.
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About Dr. Jabbour

For over 20 years, Ghias Jabbour, DDS, has been providing comprehensive dental care to Stone Oak and San Antonio residents to help them achieve and maintain healthy and beautiful smiles. He is passionate about working with patients, listening to their concerns and goals, and creating dental treatment plans that are not only effective, but also affordable. Serving Stone Oak and San Antonio, family dentist Dr. Jabbour is dedicated to helping make each dental experience as positive and rewarding as possible for his patients.

Dr. Jabbour currently resides in San Antonio, TX with his wife and their three children. He feels fortunate to be raising his family in the San Antonio community, and considers it a truly great place to live and work. When he is not helping make others smile, Dr. Jabbour enjoys spending time with his family and seeing the sights in and around Stone Oak.

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19179 Blanco Road #106
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We’re located on the west side of Stone Oak at the southwest corner of Blanco Road and Huebner. For full directions, click here.
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