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HealthWiki > Where There Is No Dentist > Appendices > Instruments

When you are treating several people on the same day, you will need to clean some instruments at the same time that you are using others. Therefore, it is necessary to have several of each kind of instrument, to be sure that the instrument you need will be ready (clean or sterile) when you need it.

There are 3 instruments you will need for each person who comes to you, no matter which treatment is needed. They are: a mirror, probe, and cotton pliers. Keep them together. Below we recommend that you have 15 of each of these, so you can keep one in each treatment kit. You do not need to buy all of these instruments. You can make several of them. If you like, buy only one example of each of the instruments below, and use them as models to copy when you make your own extra instruments.

Use Proper Name local name
(write in here)
to buy or
To examine
or to
give any
1. dental mouth
___________________________ 15
2. explorer ___________________________ 15
3. cotton pliers ___________________________ 15
To inject Aspirating dental
syringe to use with
1.8 ml cartridges
___________________________ 3
To scale
1. Ivory C-1 Scaler ___________________________ 1
Gracey 11-12
___________________________ 1
To place
1. spoon excavator ___________________________ 1
2. filling instrument ___________________________ 1
3. cement spatula ___________________________ 1
To remove
1. spoon excavator ___________________________ 3
2. straight elevator
___________________________ 3
3. upper universal
(No. 150)
___________________________ 3
4. lower universal
(No. 156)
___________________________ 1
Note: See recommendations of other elevators and forceps that are good to have if you can afford them

See a list of charitable organizations for help in buying instruments.

Making your own dental instruments

I am grateful to Aaron Yaschine for the ideas in this section.

Here are a few ideas for making instruments at low cost. Try to use materials that are available where you live.

DENT Appendix Page 214-1.png

Can you think of any other materials you can use?

Each instrument has two parts: a handle and a working piece at the end. Join them together:

... with wire:
a dental probe attached to a stick.
... with glue or even wax:
DENT Appendix Page 214-3.png

If you make the end flat, it can prevent the working piece from turning. Pound the working piece with a hammer and make a flat slot in the handle so the working piece cannot turn.

making the bottom of the working piece flat.
the end of the handle.
bottom of working piece goes in this slot
DENT Appendix Page 214-6.png
DENT Appendix Page 214-7.png

Making the three instruments you use most

Mirror: Use old pieces of mirror or a shiny piece of tin. You even can use a polished silver coin. A tongue depressor is the handle.

making a mirror as described above.
piece of wood

Probe: Use the end of a paper clip, pin or needle for the working piece. Rub it against a smooth stone to sharpen it. Bend it so it can reach around to the back of a tooth. Attach the working piece to a smooth stick handle.

bending the probe.
attaching the probe to a handle.

Tweezers: Draw the shape on a piece of tin and then cut it out with strong scissors. Use a file or a smooth stone to make the edges smooth. Bend in half to make the tweezers.

illustration of the above: tweezers made from a tin can.
DENT Appendix Page 215-5.png

Making Other Instruments and Supplies

Spoon: Bend a paper clip or needle. Flatten the end. Then pound a small stone against the end, to make it hollow. Make 2 bends and attach to a stick handle.

illustration of the above: making a spoon.
DENT Appendix Page 216-2.png

Filling Tool: Remove the heads from 2 long screws. With a file and hammer, make the end of one screw flat and the end of the other screw round. Bend each end in the direction of the edge (not the face) of the flat side. Attach both working pieces to a small stick handle.

illustration of the above: making a filling tool.
DENT Appendix Page 216-4.png

Dental Floss: When using string to clean between your teeth, you may have trouble getting this string down in between your teeth. Sometimes, also, the string gets caught there, forming a kind of ‘bird’s nest’. Three things can cause problems with dental floss:

DENT Appendix Page 216-5.png
(1) Soak thin string in hot wax.
(2) To remove the extra wax, pull the string between your fingers.
  1. An incorrectly made filling — flat and rough instead of round and smooth. Replace the filling.
  2. Teeth too tight together. Use the floss on a tooth. Then pull the string out from between the teeth as you press the free end down against the gum with the fingers of your other hand. If there is a sharp filling on a tooth, the string will pass under the filling as it comes free.
  3. String that is too thick. Make thinner but stronger floss by waxing as in this picture. The wax also will make the floss easier to slide between your teeth.

Buying dental supplies

When you do not have much money, you must spend wisely. Dental instruments are very expensive, especially when you buy them at commercial prices. Ask other health workers in your area where you can get instruments at lower prices. You can also try contacting the national dental association in your country. If you do not know how to locate your national dental association, contact the World Dental Federation:

FDI – World Dental Federation
Tour de Cointrin, Avenue Louis Casaï 51
Case Postal3 3
1216 Geneve-Cointrin
tel: 41-22-560-81-50
fax: 41-22-560-81-40
website: www.fdiworldental.org
e-mail: [email protected]
There are many organizations that donate health supplies — including dental instruments — or that distribute them at low cost. Some of these organizations prefer to help church-sponsored health projects, but others will provide instruments to anyone who needs them.
Durbin PLC, a company in England, may sell the instruments mentioned in this book at lower than commercial prices. For more information, contact:

Durbin PLC
180 Northolt Road
South Harrow, Middlesex HA2 0LT
tel: 44-20-8660-2220
fax: 44-20-8668-075
website: www.durbin.co.uk
e-mail: [email protected]
Other organizations that may be able to help:

World Dental Relief
PO Box 747
Broken Arrow, OK 74013-0747
tel: 1-918-251-2612
fax: 1-918-251-6326
website: www.worlddentalrelief.com
e-mail: [email protected]

Project HOPE
255 Carter Hall Lane
P.O. Box 250
Millwood, VA 22646 USA
tel: 1-540-837-2100
website: www.projecthope.org
e-mail: [email protected]

Direct Relief International
27 S. La Patera Lane
Goleta, CA 93117 USA
tel: 1-805-964-4767
fax: 1-805-681-4838
website: www.directrelief.org
e-mail: [email protected]

MAP International
4700 Glynco Parkway
Brunswick, GA 31525-6800
tel: 1-800-225-8550
website: www.map.org
e-mail: [email protected]

Dentaid Giles Lane, Landford,
Salisbury, Wiltshire SP5 2BG
tel: 44-1794-324249
fax: 44-1794-323871
website: www.dentaid.org
e-mail: [email protected]

This page was updated:19 Feb 2018