Dear Dr. Hall,
Recently a new porcelain crown on one of my upper molars was installed. Then it was leveled with some grinding down in places. Afterwards, my mouth was not irrigated out with water. Is it harmful to have swallowed all this porcelain powder? Isn’t that glass? I was horrified and mad at myself to not demand it not to mention the temporary pieces and the bonding crumbs.
Esther from Los Angeles
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Porcelain is a very biocompatible material, and you shouldn’t have any safety worries about having swallowed porcelain powder. It’s not quite the same as glass, though there is some glass in it. The issue we would have with swallowing glass is in the sharpness of the particles, and that doesn’t happen when porcelain is ground. Dental porcelain is made mostly of the mineral feldspar, with some silica (think sand), some kaolin (think clay), some glass (which is also mostly silica), and some coloring agents.
Having said that, I think it is bad form for a dentist to allow you to swallow debris from any dental procedure. While everything used in the mouth is made to be safe to be present in the mouth, those things aren’t necessarily meant to be swallowed in quantity. The dentist should be using high volume suction to take away all the water and debris as it is generated, and what ends up left in the mouth should be rinsed and spit out through that suction or through some other means. I had a dental appointment not too long ago where the assistant, after each pause in the procedure, left me sitting with some water and debris in my mouth, expecting me to swallow it, I guess. It was unpleasant.
– Dr. Hall
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About David A. Hall
Dr. David A. 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 advanced internet marketing for dentists.