#20 – Uses suction effectively

Your first chairside task will be to handle the high-speed suction.

The following pictures will help you learn how to place the suction correctly.  The suction has 2 main functions:

  1. Remove water and saliva
  2. Retract the cheek and tongue for safety and better vision by the dentist/      hygienist

You’ll begin by suctioning for the hygienist when she uses the ultrasonic (water cooled) scaler. Make a point of asking each hygienist when you start your day, which clients they plan to use the ultrasonic on.

Note these times where you won’t forget. The hygienists really appreciate having someone to remove the excess water, so they’ll look forward to your help.

Think of the mouth as 6 areas: upper/ lower right posterior, upper/ lower left posterior, and upper/ lower anterior. Each of these sections requires a different position both when suctioning from the lingual (inside) and facial (outside).

Now, have the chairside/ EFDA’s help me. Get a volunteer (secretary?) to sit in the chair while the chair side squirts water on the teeth and you suction it out.

Low-speed suction – bend the flexible tip into a “U” shape.  Ask your client to turn toward the hygienist.  Place the suction in the corner of the mouth with the tip beside the tongue.  Some clients dislike this suction.  With experience, you will probably be able to handle the high-speed suction well enough to avoid using the low speed.

A note on treating clients

You will be nervous.  You’ll forget what you’re doing.  You may drop things.  Your hygienist will be helping and directing you. Your hand may shake.  Don’t worry!  All of us, including the doctors, had to go through this. You will develop speed and confidence with experience.  Today, the point to remember is that your client won’t realize your problem unless you draw attention to it.  Don’t apologize to your client. Allow the clients to assume you are competent.  This helps them to have confidence.  They will do better.


  1. Pay attention to the entire suction tip, not just the bevel; be careful not to rest the top of your tip on the client’s lip.  Retract the lip first.
  2. When pulling water out after Dr. stops using the high-speed, place the bevel on either side of the throat, not in center.
  3. Keep the beveled area alongside the area being cleaned. Make sure to clear the back of the mouth each time your hygienist stops using the ultra sonic.  Be sure to place the suction on your side of the mouth.
  4. Keep high volume suction close as possible to ultra sonic.  Use saliva ejector if you have trouble keeping water from building up in patient’s mouth.
  5. Keep longer end of suction tip along the tissue to avoid suctioning up the tissue.
  6. If on lingual side, protect tongue on facial side.
  7. Front teeth – always keep suction on the facial to protect the lip from the high-speed.

Write down how you position the high-speed suction in each of the 6 areas of the mouth-outside and inside. Be sure to include position of the tip, where the suction tube is, where the hose is and where the ultrasonic is.

_____________________________________________________________________________________  Hygienist certifying basic skills of suctioning accomplished.