Friday, August 7, 2009

Explorer (dental)

A No. 23 explorer, also known as a 'sickle probe'

A dental explorer (sickle probe) is an instrument in dentistry commonly used in the dental armamentarium. A sharp point at the end of the explorer is used to enhance tactile sensation.

Until recently, it was advised that dentists use the explorer to determine the presence of tooth decay on tooth enamel. Some dental professionals have questioned this practice. Since enamel is demineralized in the early stages of tooth decay,the use of an explorer opens a cavity in the enamel where none existed previously. Instead, they argue that fluoride and oral hygiene should be used to remineralize the enamel and prevent it from decaying further. This debate still continues because sometimes decay can be difficult to diagnose without tactile verification. Additionally, radiographs and products designed to identify decay help the dental professional make a final diagnosis of tooth decay.

There are various types of explorers, though the most common one is the No. 23 explorer, which is also known as a "shepherd's hook". Other types include the 3CH (also known as "cowhorn" or "pigtail") and No. 17 explorers, which are useful for the interproximal areas between teeth.

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