Can Dental Cleaning Damage Teeth?
Even if you brush and floss diligently and consistently (good job!), it’s not enough to keep the teeth healthy and strong. Nutrition, of course, plays an important role in protecting enamel, as do regular visits for professional cleanings. Many people, however, are afraid that dental cleaning can damage teeth and may even be painful. It’s time to bust those myths.
How Do Teeth Form Cavities?
With every bite of food or drink of a beverage other than water, our teeth come in contact with substances, including acids and bacteria. As these substances rest on the teeth after eating or drinking, they can begin to form plaque or tartar. The longer plaque remains on the teeth, the more likely it will start to break down the tooth enamel, which leads to tooth decay or cavities.
Cavities, also known as caries or tooth decay, are tiny openings or holes on the surface of teeth. These openings are permanent damage that the body can’t simply repair on its own.
Cavities are often the result of not cleaning the teeth well enough or often enough, especially for those who eat or drink more sugar (such as sour candies, alcohol, sodas, and dried fruits), starch (like bread and potato chips), or acidic foods (like citrus fruits) or who frequently snack.
While many of these foods are a healthy part of a balanced diet, if you don’t brush enough after eating or drinking, it can leave the bacteria and sugars to react and create plaque. The acids in the plaque then begin to eat away at the minerals that make up tooth enamel, eroding it away until a cavity starts to form.
Untreated cavities continue to grow, affecting deeper layers of the teeth, which can lead to sensitivity to cold or hot foods and drinks, toothache, infection, and eventually tooth loss.
This is why brushing and flossing correctly and regularly are so important. It’s also why regular dental visits, twice a year, are important: dentists can find and treat tooth decay before it gets worse.
Can Dental Cleaning Damage Teeth?
A professional hygienist uses several tools during a dental cleaning, including scrapers and polishers with gritty toothpaste to remove plaque buildup that can’t simply be removed by brushing and flossing alone. These tools can look intimidating, but in the hands of a professional, they can remove the plaque that brushing can’t get to.
If the plaque has hardened, a hygienist may need to scrape (also known as scaling) more vigorously. This can lead some patients to believe that more than plaque is being removed and that some of the hard enamel is bound to be damaged as well. Fortunately, tooth enamel is very strong, much stronger than plaque. When scaled professionally during a routine cleaning, the enamel isn’t scratched, chipped, or damaged.
If you do find this type of process uncomfortable or concerning, one solution is to ensure you get regular cleanings, so plaque has less time to build up. Less plaque means less pressure and less time in the chair.
Another concern comes from the polishing session. Some people fear harsh or even toxic chemicals to remove stubborn plaque or stains. However, both tooth polish and fluoride rinses or varnish have been found safe and to help protect rather than damage teeth.
The teeth are polished using a low-powered, slow-speed electronic instrument (sometimes called a dental drill) with a gentle brush or rubber attachment with some gritty toothpaste. It’s very similar to using an electric toothbrush, but it’s smaller, so it’s easier to get all of the tooth surface for a deeper, more thorough cleaning.
This process scrubs away any remaining plaque left after scaling. It’s particularly helpful for removing stubborn surface stains for a whiter, fresher-looking smile. Again, however, this polish isn’t powerful enough to take away tooth enamel.
Finally, in the last step, fluoride may be used as a final treatment as a safe, effective way to help fight future tooth decay.
Why Do My Teeth Feel Different After a Cleaning?
Many people love how smooth their teeth feel after a cleaning, but they will indeed feel different. This is due to the removal of plaque rather than from any smoothing of enamel. This is also true for people who feel like there’s more space between their teeth. The enamel isn’t damaged or removed. Rather, the hard-to-reach plaque between the teeth is no longer there. This sensation is more likely for people who avoid flossing.
If the hygienist had to scrape more vigorously to remove the plaque, your teeth and gums may feel a bit more sensitive than usual, especially if you eat shortly after a visit. Fortunately, this is only temporary and typically lasts less than an hour or so.
Is a Professional Cleaning Safe?
The answer is absolutely yes! In fact, regular teeth cleanings are important not just to your teeth to help avoid cavities but also for the health of your entire body. That is, regular appointments not only help prevent tooth decay, detect cavities early for easier treatment, and reduce the risk of gum disease, but they also can help spot and reduce the risks for halitosis (bad breath), oral infections, oral cancer, and even heart disease and dementia.
At Relax Dental, our goal is to help you feel relaxed and for your dental appointment to be easy. Our caring staff offers expert, compassionate care for all types of visits. Call today and together, we can create a game plan for your comfort, and health, and help you feel at ease about your next checkup and cleaning.