What is Tooth Polishing?

Teeth polishing is one of the last steps your hygienist takes during your regular cleaning appointment. It’s a quick and relatively painless procedure that provides some tangible benefits for the patient.

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It removes stains and helps your teeth look healthy. It also helps prevent gum disease by reducing the biofilm that leads to tooth and bone loss.

Aesthetics

Tooth polishing is a cosmetic procedure done using a latex-free cup with a brush or a rubber prophy brush attached to a low-speed handpiece and a mildly abrasive paste to cleanse tooth surfaces and smooth the surface of dental restorations. It is generally done to remove extrinsic stains from the enamel surface of teeth, and can also be used to reduce corrosion on metallic restorations. It may be done alone or following scaling and root planing.

Teeth polishing is one of the best ways to brighten teeth that are not whitening candidates due to their natural shade or previous color treatments such as veneers. It is also an excellent way to help prevent future staining by removing any surface debris that could trap bacteria, food particles and other debris.

Dental plaque is a major cause of gum disease, and teeth polishing can help remove built up plaque and reduce the amount of bacteria present in your mouth which helps to improve overall oral health. It can even help prevent halitosis (bad breath) as it reduces the overall population of oral bacteria.

Before matching a composite to a patient’s natural tooth, it is critical that the hygienist select the right shade of resin. This is because a dehydrated composite will not accurately reflect the natural shade of the tooth, leading to inconsistencies between the restoration and the adjacent teeth.

Cleanliness

Tooth polishing is a crucial part of your dental cleaning treatment. It removes surface stains, and makes your teeth look clean and white. During a regular dental cleaning, a hygienist uses a rubber cup filled with a polishing paste to remove plaque and tartar from the teeth. They may also use a porte polisher, which is a handheld device that spins and rubs abrasive substances against the tooth enamel to remove stains. Other polishers, such as engine-driven or air polishers, use a jet of water and abrasive particles to access hard-to-reach spots in the mouth.

Tooth stains can be caused by poor oral hygiene, chromogenic bacteria, foods and beverages, and smoking. Routine teeth polishing using a rubber cup with prophy pastes of different grit sizes, fine, medium and coarse, is a preventive measure against the re-emergence of extrinsic staining. However, this type of polishing has a negative impact on the morphology of the enamel and microscopically scratches the surface of the tooth. Therefore, it is recommended that this procedure be used selectively after scaling on the basis of a clinical assessment.

The hygienist will most likely use a flavored polishing paste, such as mint, berry, orange or chocolate to make the process more pleasant and to increase patient motivation. This also helps freshen up the breath after all that icky sticky bacteria have been removed.

Fresh Breath

When plaque and bacteria stay on your teeth for too long, it calcifies and becomes tartar. This hard substance can only be removed by a dental professional with the help of scaling equipment. Regular brushing helps remove some stains and plaque, but polishing gets into areas that regular toothbrushes cannot. A polishing procedure is an important finishing touch to a cleaning appointment.

Tooth polishing is generally one of the last steps a hygienist will take with a patient after scaling away loose and calcified plaque and tartar buildup from the surface of the tooth. Hygienists use a variety of polishing pastes called prophy (an abbreviation for prophylaxis) to accomplish this task. The abrasives used in these prophy pastes range from coarse and medium to fine. Pastes with a higher particle size have more abrasive power but can also microscopically scratch the surface of your teeth, making them more susceptible to stains.

To avoid this, a hygienist may choose a softer polishing product such as glycine or calcium carbonate. These products are less abrasive, but they are also less effective at removing surface stains. The hygienist will rub the paste into the teeth with a hand-held tool called a porte polisher, or with an air-polishing device that shoots a jet of water, air and abrasive onto your teeth.

Painless

Tooth polishing is the final step in your cleaning appointment after your hygienist scales away loose plaque and calcified tartar buildup. It involves applying a fine-grained prophylactic paste to the teeth and using a small handheld instrument called a polisher that scrubs the tooth surface. This process is usually painless and leaves the mouth with a fresh clean feeling.

Tooth polishing can also help remove stains from foods, drinks, smoking and some antimicrobial rinses that are not easily removed with regular brushing. It can also help prevent gum disease, tooth decay and other dental problems by removing small crevices where bacteria hides.

There are two types of stains: endogenous and exogenous. Endogenous stains are internal to the enamel such as developmental defects or drug-induced enamel hypoplasia. Exogenous stains are on the outside of the enamel such as chromogenic bacteria found in plaque, food and beverage staining, smoking and some oral hygiene products.

While removing surface stains and smoothing the tooth’s surface can make it harder for bacteria to stick to the teeth, polishing hasn’t been shown to be effective at preventing gum disease or tooth decay unless it is part of an overall plan that includes daily home oral hygiene routines and regular professional cleanings. However, it is a very important part of your dental health care routine and can be done safely with a few precautions.