Teeth Polishing: Traditional vs. Prophy-Jet


We know that going to the dentist is not at the top of anyone’s list of favorite things to do.  What may surprise you is that your dentist and her staff do not always know why you don’t like going to the dentist. Over the years, we have learned that there are several different aversions people feel toward the dentist office, and some have even surprised us.

Prophy Jet- Teeth Cleaning

For many people, their dislike of the dentist office stems from a natural fear of pain or an understandable concern for expense.  Some less common fears or dislikes include the sounds of a dental handpiece and the feeling of vibration.  These are the aversions we can put to rest with the use of a Prophy-Jet ®!

Professional Teeth Cleanings

The purpose of a professional teeth cleaning is the removal of all bacterial attachments to the teeth.  Even in the healthiest mouth, the bacteria which are naturally present accumulate over timeon the hard surface of the teeth.  If not removed, the bacteria produce acids, which cause cavities, and toxins, which cause gum disease.  The elimination of this bacterial accumulation is vital to a healthy mouth, free of tooth decay and gingivitis.
Professional teeth cleanings are performed in a dental office by either a dentist or a dental hygienist.  As the term implies, dental hygienists specialize in dental hygiene.  They not only execute the complete elimination of bacterial accumulation on the teeth; they give each patient customized education and specific techniques to keep his or her mouth as healthy as possible.  (A dental hygienist also provides many other services during a professional teeth cleaning appointment, not discussed here.)

There are typically two parts to a professional teeth cleaning:

1) Scaling (a.k.a. scraping) – Removal of hard bacterial accumulation known as tartar or calculus
2) Polishing – Removal of soft bacterial accumulation known as plaque, and smoothing of the surface of enamel to reduce future plaque buildup.
This blog will focus on the polishing technique we prefer at Definition Dental: the Prophy-Jet®.

  What is a Prophy-Jet®?

Prophy-Jet® is the brand name of an air-powder polishing unit used in dental offices.  Air-powder polishing is a method of polishing the teeth using a concentrated spray of air, water, and a very fine powder.  The pressure of this combination serves to effectively remove bacterial plaque accumulation and leave a smooth, polished surface behind.

What are the advantages of the Prophy-Jet®?

  • No drilling sound – The Prophy-Jet® is not a drill!  It does not use any spinning or rotary motion, so it does not produce the stereotypical drilling sound common to traditional polishing with a low-speed dental drill.
  • No contact with the teeth – Like a touchless carwash, the Prophy-Jet® uses a high pressure spray to remove debris from the teeth without touching them.
  • No vibration – The Prophy-Jet®’s method of action means you will feel a high pressure spray instead of the vibration of a rotary drill touching your teeth.
  • Faster removal of plaque – Research has proven the Prophy-Jet® to remove plaque buildup faster than traditional polishing techniques.
  • More effective at removal of stains – The Prophy-Jet® polishing system has also been scientifically proven to be more efficient at the removal of extrinsic stains than traditional polishing.
  • Less abrasiveness – Traditional polishing uses an abrasive paste inside a spinning rubber cup.  Research studies have shown that the air, powder, and water mixture used inside the Prophy-Jet® is less abrasive, and therefore less damaging to tooth structure, than traditional polishing.

Who is a good candidate for the Prophy-Jet®?

There are some contraindications to the use of a Prophy-Jet®, which are listed in a later section.  If none of these applies to you, then you are a candidate for tooth polishing with the Prophy-Jet®.  Some patients would particularly benefit greatly from the use of a Prophy-Jet® polisher.

  • A patient who experiences fear or anxiety from the sounds of a traditional low-speed dental drill
  • A patient who experiences fear or anxiety from the feeling of vibration produced by traditional tooth polishing.
  • A patient who has significant extrinsic staining from
    • smoking or other tobacco use
    • excessive intake of coffee, tea, or red wine
    • the use of a prescription mouthwash
  • A patient wearing braces

Who is not a good candidate for the Prophy-Jet®?

Some patients should not have their teeth polished using the Prophy-Jet®.  Because the powders used are typically very high in sodium, patients with kidney disease or those with restricted intake of sodium should not be exposed to the Prophy-Jet®.  The air-powder polishing system creates an aerosol, which can be inhaled, so any patients with respiratory diseases or infectious diseases are not candidates for use of the Prophy-Jet®.  An air-powder polishing system also should not be used on dental implants due to the possibility of damage to the surface of the metal.  The American Dental Hygiene Association lists the following people as contraindicated for use of the Prophy-Jet® in its 2010 Position Paper on Polishing.
  • Patients with restricted sodium diets
  • Patients with respiratory, renal, or metabolic disease
  • Patients with infectious disease
  • Children
  • Patients on diuretics or long-term steroid therapy
  • Patients with titanium implants

Who can use the Prophy-Jet® system on patients?

The Prophy-Jet® technique requires specialized education for proper use.  Only a dentist or dental hygienist who has been specifically trained in the use of a Prophy-Jet® should use this instrument on your teeth.  At Definition Dental, our practitioners have received the appropriate training necessary to provide customized treatment to each patient.  This means, we know which patients are candidates for the Prophy-Jet® system and how to utilize the system most effectively and efficiently.
Our goal is always to give each patient the best dental experience.  The Prophy-Jet® system could make your next professional teeth cleaning faster and more comfortable.  Call Definition Dental today to schedule your next teeth cleaning so you can experience the Prophy-Jet® for yourself.


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