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Dental Tools 101: What does a Dentist Use?

what does a dentist use? close up of dental tools in a dentist's pocketWhat Does a Dentist Use?

When you visit Dr. Wolnik for your regular dental cleanings and check-ups, you might have noticed that he uses a wide variety of tools to clean your teeth, but what exactly are those contraptions? We’ve got a quick guide to each of the standard dental tools that Dr. Wolnik might utilize during your exam and why.

Meet Dr. Wolnik

Dental Mirror

These small, round mirrors are specially angled to help Dr. Wolnik see hidden areas in your mouth such as the backs of your teeth. Dental mirrors reflect light and help improve visibility in the deeper parts of the mouth and throat.


Also known as a sickle probe, the explorer is equipped with a pointed hook at the end of its slim handle. Dr. Wolnik and his hygienists use this tool to touch the surface of each tooth and look for the soft areas that can be an indicator of tooth decay. Explorer number 23 is the most commonly used sickle probe, and is also called the shepherd’s hook.

Cotton Pliers

A pair of cotton pliers is one of the most important instruments Dr. Wolnik uses. These pliers are a tiny tool similar to tweezers, in both looks and functionality. Cotton pliers are used to avoid contamination when Dr. Wolnik picks up a small item or removes one from your mouth.


Excavators are a group of instruments used to cut into your teeth and remove any decaying material. You will see Dr. Wolnik use the three types of excavators during a simple cavity repair:

  • Enamel hatchets – Used to prepare cavity walls
  • Dental hatchets – Used to widen the dental cavity
  • Spoon excavators – Used to remove tooth debris and decayed bits of the tooth’s inner material from the cavity

Saliva Ejector

A curved tube that acts as a vacuum, the saliva ejector is Dr. Wolnik’s go-to tool for saliva removal. During a dental exam or procedure, you must keep your mouth open for long periods of time. Your body’s normal response to ward off dryness which leads to increased saliva production. This increased saliva makes it difficult for Dr. Wolnik to complete the examination or procedure, which is why the saliva ejector is always ready, although in some cases, small absorbent cotton pads may also be used.

There are of course many other tools that Dr. Wolnik utilizes in his daily practice, but these are the instruments you are most likely to encounter during a standard examination or basic procedure. If you are curious to learn more about the tools Dr. Wolnik and his staff use, just ask! We’re happy to answer any questions you might have.

About Kenneth J. Wolnik, DDS

After receiving his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine in 2002, Dr. Wolnik began his practice with a very specific goal in mind-to provide exceptional oral health care to every patient he sees. For over ten years, Dr. Wolnik has provided cleanings, fillings, accident reconstructions, and complex esthetic rehabilitations with great respect and care.

Contact Us

6363 York Rd, Ste 202
Parma Heights, OH 44130

Phone: (440) 888-5055


You can also submit questions to Dr. Wolnik and his staff at

Office Hours

Monday: 7:00am – 4:00pm
Tuesday: 8:00am – 5:00pm
Thursday: 8:00am – 6:00pm
Friday: 7:30am – 1:00pm

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