Recent studies by the ADHA (American Dental Hygienists’ Association) have shown that polishing can actually cause harm to tooth structure. Historically, polishing the teeth with a motorized polishing cup has been a routine part of the cleaning appointment at the dental office. It was believed to be important to have smooth, stain-free tooth surfaces in order to stop the buildup of new plaque. However, studies have proven that polishing has adverse affects to the tooth structure.

The ADHA testing reveals:

  1. Polishing actually removes 4 microns of tooth structure –that includes the fluoride rich layer of enamel needed for protection against cavities.
  2. Polishing causes increased tooth sensitivity because the abrasive polishing paste uncovers ends of dentinal tubules in areas of thin dentin and root surface.
  3. Polishing creates heat that can irritate the tooth nerve.
  4. Polishing with course polishing paste can scratch fillings causing them to break down.

There are still benefits and uses for polishing teeth.

  1. To remove extrinsic stains not otherwise removed during tooth brushing and scaling.
  2. To prepare the teeth for caries prevention agents-such as sealants; and prior to bonding procedures-such as cementing crowns and braces.

Contraindications for Polishing:

  • No visible stain present
  • Patients at risk for dental cavities—rampant caries, nursing and root caries
  • Patients with respiratory problems—COPD, asthma
  • Newly erupted teeth—incomplete mineralization tooth surface
  • Soft spongy tissue that bleeds on brushing or gentle instrumentation
  • Immediately following gum therapy SRP: abrasive particles can become embedded in the pocket wall and interfere with healing

Our office believes in educating our patients with the latest dental information and providing the best in dental care. Therefore, our office follows the ADHA recommendations and will selectively polish after assessing each patient’s dental needs. Please feel free to ask our hygienists, any questions you have. Articles regarding this topic and many more are in our Dental News Update folder at the front desk.

We do believe that you have a choice in your treatment. Therefore, if you still choose to have polishing done during your cleaning appointment, we will happily polish your teeth. We want you to be satisfied with your treatment.