How Does A Tooth Polishing Procedure Work?

Smooth, shiny, stain-free teeth are a real confidence booster. One way to achieve a bright, attractive smile is through tooth polishing. Many dental practices offer polishing after a dental treatment or as the final stage of a routine dental visit. Dental hygienists generally perform this service in busy practices, but dentists may perform the polishing themselves in some practices.

Cleaning and Polishing Teeth

When layers of plaque build up on the teeth, they harden and form a tough mineral substance called tartar. Germs can live beneath tartar and cause dental problems. To help prevent this, dental hygienists remove tartar in a procedure called scaling. After scraping off the hard tartar with special instruments, the hygienist polishes the teeth. Dental polishing removes surface stains on the teeth and leaves them shiny and smooth, putting the finishing touches on a protective dental treatment.

Tooth Polishing Procedures

Tooth polishing is a painless dental procedure, and some patients enjoy it. The dental hygienist uses a small, soft rubber cup and polishing paste. If a patient has severe stains, an air polishing system may be used - this involves a jet of pressurised air and water mixed with an abrasive agent to polish the teeth. An article in the Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology (JISP) reports that some dental hygienists provide selective polishing, which means they only polish teeth that remain stained after scaling. Another option is therapeutic polishing, which helps remove germs from tooth roots that are exposed during dental surgery.

Tooth Polishing Pastes

Tooth polishing pastes are called prophy pastes, an abbreviation of prophylaxis that refers to the protective effects of tooth cleaning and polishing. Dental hygienists choose between fine, medium and coarse pastes to fill the rubber cup that delivers the paste to the tooth surface. Coarse and medium pastes are most effective at removing stains quickly, according to the American Academy for Oral Systemic Health, but they can also scratch and roughen the tooth enamel, thus making it more likely to develop stains at a later stage. Fine pastes are less damaging and create a more highly polished finish, but can be less effective at removing stains. The JISP states that the abrasive agents most often used in prophy are calcium carbonate and pumice flour.

Air Polishing for Teeth

Published by the Journal of Dental Hygiene, a review of several studies shows that polishing with a jet of air, water and an abrasive agent removes stains more effectively and quickly than polishing with a rubber cup and prophy. In addition, air polishing is generally less harsh on tooth enamel. Sodium bicarbonate is often used as the abrasive agent in air polishing, but glycine (a naturally occurring amino acid) is less abrasive and just as effective.

Tooth Polishing Precautions

If there is gum recession and the cementum is exposed, the use of a mild polishing paste may be recommended to ensure there is no sensitivity to the tooth surface. If patients have problems like teeth sensitivity, untreated cavities, exposed dentin or roots, and problematic or receding gums, these oral issues should be treated before the teeth are scaled and polished. Lastly, according to the Journal of Dental Hygiene, patients who should not have their teeth polished include the following: people suffering from respiratory problems, hypertension, conditions that weaken tooth enamel, or allergies to the abrasive agents.

Although tooth polishing is not an essential dental treatment, it can help patients feel confident about the look of their teeth and encourage good oral care habits. If your teeth have surface stains, ask your dentist whether polishing would help improve their appearance.

 

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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What To Expect During a DENTAL VISIT

On your first visit, your dentist will take a full health history. On follow-up visits, if your health status has changed, make sure to tell your dentist. Here’s what you can expect during most trips to the dentist.

  • A Thorough Ceaning – a dental hygienist or dentist will scrape along and below the gum line to remove built-up plaque and tartar that can cause gum disease, cavities, bad breath and other problems. Then he or she will polish and floss your teeth.

  • A Full Dental Examination – your dentist will perform a thorough examination of your teeth, gums and mouth, looking for signs of disease or other problems.

  • X-Rays – X-rays can diagnose problems otherwise unnoticed, such as damage to jawbones, impacted teeth, abscesses, cysts or tumors, and decay between the teeth.