Cosmetic Dentistry Blog Cosmetic and General Dentistry Questions Answered

July 18, 2016

Would I let a rough hygienist clean my teeth?


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Dr. Hall,
All of my top teeth (except the molars) have porcelain crowns. I was advised years ago not to have a Cavitron used to clean the crowns. I recently had my teeth cleaned by a new hygienist who became very upset when I asked her not to use the machine. She scaled my crowns with so much force that it was painful and I really worried she would break them. The 4 center teeth do not have a metal lining behind the porcelain and I treat them very carefully. Which is the lesser of two evils – the Cavitron or a brutal hygienist scaling my porcelain crowns with hand instruments? Could there really be that much plaque on a porcelain surface?
– Elizabeth from Massachusetts

Elizabeth,
I’m getting a lot of these Cavitron questions lately. I think that’s because their use is getting more popular with dental hygienists.

The Cavitron by itself won’t hurt your porcelain crowns or other porcelain restorations. See my earlier post on this: Is the Cavitron safe for use with porcelain veneers? We used to give a blanket prohibition against using the Cavitron with porcelain crowns or veneers, but our observation of the care being used by dental hygienists has caused us to soften that. Used properly, there is no risk of damage from the Cavitron to crowns or any other restorations.

What bothers me most about what you told me is that your hygienist became upset when you asked her not to use the Cavitron. I talked to my own hygienist about this Cavitron issue and she said she gets a number of requests from patients to not use the Cavitron in certain places, or other requests, and she honors those requests. This haughty attitude and lack of sensitivity to the patient is not good. It’s kind of like you are in the way of her doing her job. She doesn’t seem to connect that you are paying for her services. Hygienists and dentists get a number of special requests like this from patients, and I believe the proper response is to honor those when possible. Yes, you may have made more work for her, but serving the patient is her job.

To answer your question, yes, the hygienist can do damage even without the Cavitron. Heavy scaling can nick the margins. If I were in your position, I wouldn’t let this hygienist touch my teeth any more, whether she used a Cavitron or a hand scaler or a toothpick. If that meant switching dentists, I would do it, and let the dentist know the reason. From what you’ve told me, I have serious questions about how much she cares about her patients, which for me is the first requirement of quality care. In rough hands, a Cavitron can do significant damage not just to restorations but even sometimes to your teeth.
– Dr. Hall

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About David A. Hall

Dr. David Hall was one of the first 40 accredited cosmetic dentists in the world. He practiced cosmetic dentistry in Iowa, and in 1990 earned his accreditation with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is now president of Infinity Dental Web, a company in Mesa, Arizona that does complete Internet marketing for dentists.

3 Comments »

  1. It’s great to read advice like this. It gives patients confidence in wading through the myriad of practioners out there so you know what is quality, caring care.

    Comment by Annmarie — July 19, 2016 @ 11:39 am

  2. I can only imagine how uncomfortable it must have been to have a dental hygienist who was “very upset” with me cleaning my teeth with sharp utensils! I don’t think that I would go back to that hygienist again either.

    Comment by Jaren — July 20, 2016 @ 11:45 am

  3. I don’t think I would return to that hygienist. You should be able to communicate and voice your concerns during any dental appointment. It would also be wise to tell the dentist or business manager to protect others.

    Comment by Jamie S — July 25, 2016 @ 7:46 am

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