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What is the difference between suction and saliva ejector?

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What is the difference between suction and saliva ejector?

Suction and saliva ejector are both essential tools used in dental procedures to manage moisture and debris in the oral cavity, ensuring that the dentist or hygienist has an unobstructed view and workspace. While they serve similar purposes, they function differently and have unique features that set them apart. Below is a detailed comparison and explanation of each device.

1. Suction Device (High Volume Evacuation or HVE)

A high volume evacuation (HVE) suction device is a critical tool found in virtually every dental operatory. It uses a powerful motorized suction unit connected via tubing to a disposable tip that the dental professional inserts into the patient’s mouth during treatment.

The primary function of the HVE suction is to remove large amounts of fluid, including saliva, blood, and irrigation solutions from the oral cavity promptly and efficiently. It provides a continuous vacuum force that can keep the operative site dry and clear, which is especially crucial during surgical procedures, tooth preparations for fillings, and when using certain dental materials that require a dry field.

High suction capacity allows for immediate removal of fluids, reducing the risk of aspiration.
Helps maintain visibility and cleanliness in the oral cavity during procedures.
Can help reduce aerosol production by capturing it at the source, which is particularly important in infection control, especially during procedures that generate aerosols like ultrasonic scaling and drilling.

2. Saliva Ejector (Low Volume Evacuation or LVE)

A saliva ejector, also known as a dental aspirator or “the straw,” is another type of suction device but with significantly lower suction power compared to HVE.

The saliva ejector is a soft rubber tube typically placed in the corner of the patient’s mouth. It works on the principle of negative pressure created by a suction machine, but its suction strength is much weaker than that of the HVE. Its purpose is primarily to draw out saliva and minor amounts of water or debris, thus preventing the patient from swallowing or choking on these substances during dental work.

The low suction pressure makes it comfortable for patients and less likely to cause irritation or tissue damage.
It keeps the patient’s mouth relatively free from excess saliva without disrupting the dentist’s work area as much as a high-speed suction might.
Easy to use and requires minimal adjustment once positioned correctly in the patient’s mouth.


While both suction devices serve to keep the oral cavity clean and free from obstruction during dental procedures, the main differences lie in their suction strength and application:

Suction Power: HVE offers a high level of suction power, ideal for rapid and efficient clearance of large volumes of liquid and debris. In contrast, the saliva ejector provides a gentler suction suitable for continuously removing saliva but not as effective for managing heavy bleeding or large quantities of fluid.

Clinical Application: HVE is more versatile and often indispensable in complex treatments where a dry field is required. On the other hand, saliva ejectors are more commonly used in routine cleanings and less invasive procedures where maintaining a completely dry field is not as critical.

Aerosol Management: HVE is more effective in controlling and minimizing aerosols generated during dental procedures, thereby reducing the risk of transmission of infectious diseases.

In summary, suction and saliva ejector play complementary roles in dental practice. They are designed to cater to different clinical needs, with high volume evacuation being the powerhouse for clearing liquids and debris, while saliva ejectors offer a gentle and continuous means of managing saliva flow. Both are integral to maintaining a safe, clean, and efficient environment within the dental office.

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