a woman smiles in a dental chair

Can Dental Cleanings Damage Teeth?

Team General Dentistry

Professional dental cleanings are one of the best things you can do for a bright, healthy smile. Some people avoid getting their teeth cleaned at the dentist because they worry that dental cleanings can damage their teeth. You may be glad to know that, when performed by your dentist, dental cleanings do not harm your teeth.

Dental Cleanings are an Essential Part of a Healthy Smile

Dental cleanings can help you maintain a healthy, appealing smile. Millions of bacteria live in your mouth. The bacteria feed on the sugars and starches in the foods and beverages you eat and drink. As the bacteria feed, they create acids that combine with plaque, which is a clear sticky substance that sticks to the surface of tooth enamel.

Plaque is easy to remove with regular brushing and flossing, but in time, plaque can harden into tartar that only professional dental cleaning can remove. Left in place, the acid and bacteria in plaque and tartar can begin to erode your tooth enamel, eventually leading to gum disease, tooth decay and cavities.

Why Some People Think Dental Cleanings are Harmful

They worry that cleanings will weaken tooth enamel

Scraping and scratching off tartar and plaque from the surface of teeth is the first step in a professional dental cleaning. The harder the tartar, the more vigorously the dental hygienist will have to scrape – this leaves some patients concerned that the vigorous scraping will remove some of the enamel along with the tartar.

The good news is that tooth enamel is extremely strong and can withstand the treatment. In fact, tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body – enamel is even stronger than bone! Enamel is resilient because it is 96 percent minerals, which stand up to the scraping quite well.

Some patients are concerned about any strong chemicals that may be used in dental cleanings

Fortunately, only two chemicals are used during dental cleanings, and both are gentle and safe. After scraping the tartar from your teeth, your dental hygienist will polish your teeth with an electronic instrument. The tooth polish they use contains a gritty substance known as pumice, which works like sandpaper to remove stains and smooth the surface of your teeth.

After polishing your teeth, your dental hygienist will use a fluoride rinse or apply a fluoride varnish onto your teeth to strengthen your tooth enamel and reduce your risk for cavities. Both tooth polish and fluoride are safe.

Teeth may feel different after a dental cleaning

Dental cleaning can leave teeth feeling different – in some cases, gums may bleed or teeth may feel sensitive following the procedure. Sometimes it feels like there is a new gap between teeth, especially if cleaning had removed a significant buildup of tartar between teeth. Fortunately, dental cleaning cannot cause gaps. The good news is that bleeding and sensitivity will stop soon after the treatment, and it won’t take long for you to get used to the feeling of ultra-clean teeth.

For more information about dental cleanings and whether it can damage your teeth, contact us today. You will be glad to know that dental cleanings can improve the health and cosmetic appeal of your smile.