Dental Instruments Every Dental Assistant Should Know

Instruments Every Dental Assistant Should Know

As with every profession, a dental assistant needs to have the proper tools to perform his or her job. There are three main instruments that dental assistants should be familiar with, because a major part of their clinical duties involves cleaning, sterilizing, storing and handing them to the dentist during procedures.


Essential Instruments

Suction Hose: Also known as a saliva ejector, the suction hose is like a mini vacuum that sucks up saliva and debris (such as tooth particles) inside the mouth, keeping the area clean and dry while the dentist is working on the patient.

Air-Water Syringe: Also known as a Triplex Syringe, the air-water syringe is a precision tool that can blow air, spray water or deliver a combination of the two into tight spaces in the patient’s mouth to clean out the area or dislodge small bits of tooth.

High-Volume Evacuator: The high-volume evacuator, or HVE, is a bigger, more high-speed suction tool than the suction hose and thus can remove larger particles and a larger amount of water and saliva.

Other Instruments

Other instruments dental assistants may be asked to handle include:

Mouth Mirror: A mouth mirror makes it easier for the dentist see specific spots inside the mouth at various angles and can also help move the tongue around and protect oral tissue.

Explorer: An explorer is a probe with a sharp end that a dentist uses to feel around on the surface of teeth in order to determine if there are any cavities or other irregularities.

College Pliers: Also known as cotton pliers, this thin, tweezer-like tool that can transport objects to an from the patient’s mouth.

Enamel Chisel/Hatchet/Hoe: These cutting tools scrape old, decayed enamel from a tooth that has a cavity.

Amalgam Carrier: The amalgam carrier transports the metal for fillings (the amalgam) to the tooth.

Amalgam Condenser: An amalgam condenser packs the metallic filling material into place in the tooth.

Amalgam Carver: A carver cuts and shapes the metal in fillings.

Burnisher: A burnisher smoothes and polishes fillings.

(Sources:, Competency Skills for the Dental Assistant)