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What Is a Saliva Ejector?

Andrew Kirmayer
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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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.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Andrew Kirmayer
By Andrew Kirmayer
Andrew Kirmayer, a freelance writer with his own online writing business, creates engaging content across various industries and disciplines. With a degree in Creative Writing, he is skilled at writing compelling articles, blogs, press releases, website content, web copy, and more, all with the goal of making the web a more informative and engaging place for all audiences.
Discussion Comments
By ysmina — On May 11, 2014

I think all saliva ejectors need to be disposable. I'm worried about the risk of contamination and infection with non-disposable saliva ejectors. Like the article said, there is the possibility of backflow and there might be issues with disinfecting the saliva ejector after it has been used. I think the disposable variety is safer. I actually refused the non-disposable saliva ejector used by my dentist and requested him to switch to disposable ones as soon as possible.

By SteamLouis — On May 10, 2014

@fBoyle-- I don't think a saliva ejector is uncomfortable. I think it's a great invention. I remember dentist visits before there were saliva ejectors and it was such a pain to spit out the saliva during long dental procedures. And the risk of not removing the saliva is drooling or possibly choking. Just imagine what you would do without the little device during a procedure like a root canal?

The only thing I don't get about saliva ejectors is the name. What is it ejecting? Should it be called a saliva suction? It would make more sense.

By fBoyle — On May 10, 2014

A saliva ejector sitting in my mouth is one of the most uncomfortable aspects of dental work. Although I have regular cleanings and check-ups with the dentist, I can't seem to get used to this little suction device.

Andrew Kirmayer
Andrew Kirmayer
Andrew Kirmayer, a freelance writer with his own online writing business, creates engaging content across various...
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