A saliva ejector is a device, often used by dentists, which generally consists of a suction tube and a disposable tip. It is typically inserted into a patient’s mouth to remove saliva as well as blood and other waste materials. Usually made of plastic, the device can include a flexible wire to bend it into a hook shape so that it can be inserted comfortably. Sometimes the saliva ejector is used for brief periods of time, or it can be left in place during a procedure such as a dental cleaning, tooth filling, or a root canal, for example.
Plastic or recycled materials can be used to manufacture a saliva ejector. There are various models, and some include extra components such as a tongue retractor for use when a dentist needs more room to work in the mouth. Extra space often comes in handy during complex procedures in which other dental equipment is used as well. Accessories such as specialized sponges can be fit onto the edge of the device if a patient is uncomfortable, to provide some cushioning. Other devices are padded, which often allows them to be used as cheek retractors as well.
Saliva ejectors are sometimes available in coiled designs with several small holes. These can often be bent into a shape that fits the floor of the mouth. Other devices can be disposable. Some are compatible with mirror attachments with small hollow handles; fluids typically travel through these to the main suction tube. These accessories are often more suited for devices that operate at slow speeds.
High-speed systems are generally used when there is an assistant present. They are typically longer and heavier that other models. A saliva ejector that operates this way may have a rotating swivel and adjustable length. One type can actually serve different roles during a dental procedure and includes a light for use inside the mouth.
In some cases, fluids from a saliva ejector can flow backward. If one closes his or her lips around the device, this can create a seal that lowers the pressure in one’s mouth, causing the fluids to reverse direction. Research has not found any significant health concerns associated with this phenomenon. Some scientists, however, advise that dentists not tell patients to close their mouth when using a saliva ejector. The device should also be hung below the patient and proper disinfection procedures should be followed in between treatments.