What Are the Most Common Tools Dental Assistants Use?

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We’ve all been there: leaned back in the dental chair, spotlight on you, waiting for a cleaning, and right next to you is a tray of what looks like futuristic devices. They’re mirrors, probes, drills and more. These devices are tools dental assistants pass to the dentist to help them give people bright smiles. If you’ve ever been curious about how to use them, you might want to consider a career as a Dental Assistant. These are the most common tools Dental Assistants are around every day:

The Dental Tray

Since it will be your role to assist the dentist during patient procedures, it’s important that you understand just what kind of treatments those patients will undergo. You’ll need to know beforehand whether a hygienist will be performing a simple cleaning or if a dentist is conducting an extraction or filling. With that knowledge, you’ll place the right sterile tools on the tray and be prepared to pass them along.

Sickle Probe

Also referred to as a dental explorer, this is one of the tools most often used in an exam. It looks like a hand-held metal stick and sometimes has a short hook on one end. Dentists use it to probe teeth as they look for signs of decay, soft spots, and cavities. New developments in dental technology provide alternatives to this method, but it’s still one of the most basic and widely used dental tools.

Dental Mirror

Used alongside the sickle probe, a dental mirror is a simple, but critical, tool. It has the same handle as a dental explorer, but it has a small, round mirror where the hook would be. The mirror lets dentists examine teeth and gums from angles you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to see. Understanding what tool a dentist needs when is one of your most important jobs. And the sickle probe and dental mirror top the list of tools used every day.


You’re sure to come across people with cavities who need fillings. Dental burnishers come in handy for this, especially if the dentist uses amalgam as a filing agent. It’s like a small-scale way to sculpt and mold part of the tooth. The burnisher is a rounded tool used to condense and smooth out the amalgam so that it seamlessly looks like part of the tooth.


As a dental assistant, one of your primary tasks will be to take and process x-rays. Bitewing imagery is a type of x-ray where the patient bites down on tabs that act as sensors or film. They capture signs of tooth decay, gum disease, bone density, and hard-to-see points of view of premolars and molars. The  earlier the dentist identifies an onset dental issue, the more likely it can be treated before it becomes a problem.

If you’re interested in dentistry and dental assisting, you need a Dental Assistant program that will prepare you for a job in a dental setting. Charter College offers a flexible academic schedule designed to give you hands-on experience. In as little as 10 months, you can learn what you need to succeed in this profession, such as basic dental assistant training, common treatment and procedures, and proper infection control. You’ll even get experience assisting in a lab or clinic. Reach out to Charter College today to learn more about how to enroll in our Dental Assistant program in Canyon Country, Lancaster, Oxnard, Fife, Pasco, and Vancouver.