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What is a Hatchet? A Guide to Your Hand Tools for Caries Restoration

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What is a Hatchet? A Guide to Your Hand Tools for Caries Restoration

By Jessica Li


Remember that big box of tools you received during Orientation Week? If you were anything like me, you probably felt a mixture of confusion, distress, and befuddlement by the high volume of instruments that were being distributed. Below are some tips on how to distinguish your instruments from one another. My secret tip? Mark your instruments with colored tape so you can easily pick them out amongst their (seemingly) identical friends.



Drills come in two flavors called the High Speed and the Low Speed. They will quickly help you achieve the outline form of your cavity prep.

The High Speed is used make the outline of your access form, quickly and cleanly. It is also equipped with a water coolant, which ejects a stream of water while you drill. The purpose of the water is to prevent frictional heat on the tooth, which could lead to problems with the pulp in a real patient. In your typodonts, the water will help mask the smell of burning plastic as you drill into fake teeth. A 1556 bur or a 330 bur is ideal for your high speed needs.

The slow speed helps to smooth the walls and/or floor of your prep and to remove the carious decay. Common burs to use with a low speed drill are the ½ round burs and the ¼ round burs.


Hand instruments are used to shape and clean up your access before filling the cavity with amalgam or composite. Hand tools are named in a specific array of numbers.

A hatchet is a double-ended hand tool where one end cuts the facial surface and the other end cuts the lingual surface. The longer and sharper end of the hatch will always lie parallel and next to the surface of the tooth you want to cut. There are two sets of hatchets – one for the mesial proximal box (i.e.13-83-9-15) and one for the distal proximal box (i.e 13-95-8-14). Apply a controlled, pushing motion on the blade to help it cut into the surface of the tooth you want to remove.


The hoe is used for planning the tooth and forming line angles. The hoe has 2 motions – push and pull. Both methods will enable you to create smooth, flat surfaces. I also like to use the hoe when cleaning the walls of the proximal box by position the hoe such that the longer part of the blade is against the surface you want to make smooth.