I had porcelain veneers put on in 2000 by a cosmetic dentist. A couple of years ago, I went to my “regular dentist” to have my teeth cleaned. The hygienist used the salt water cleaning tool rather than the polisher. My teeth have become noticeably more yellow and I wonder if this cleaning method may have harmed the veneers. If this is the case, is there anything I can do besides replacing them? Just about all of my teeth, except the molars, of course, have veneers.
—Marie from Wisconsin, April 2006
Yes, this salt water cleaning tool that your hygienist used is called a Prophy Jet, and it is a big “no-no” on porcelain veneers. Hopefully, you both learned your lesson. What happens is that this high-powered salt spray works great on natural teeth because it blasts off the stains. But on porcelain veneers or on porcelain crowns, it removes the glaze and leaves the surface rough. With the glaze intact, your veneers are practically impervious to staining. With it gone, they discolor readily. I address this on our website on our cosmetic dentistry maintenance page. It’s number 1 on the list of “No-no’s.”
Who Should Pay for Prophy Jet Damage?
My opinion is that this office that caused the damage should pay for fixing it.
You need to go to an expert cosmetic dentist. I’d suggest the cosmetic dentist we have listed on our site in the Milwaukee area, and let him see the problem. I wouldn’t assume that just because this dentist did a good job on your veneers that he or she knows enough to fix this problem. Print out a copy of the page I mentioned above, because even some expert cosmetic dentists aren’t fully familiar with this problem. Then see if he feels comfortable polishing the veneers back to a glaze finish. If he does, then don’t let him touch the teeth yet—just get an estimate of what it will cost. It may be a considerable amount, because it requires some artistic skill and ultra-fine diamond polishing wheels and paste to polish out this roughness while preserving the beautiful contours and reflective lines in the veneers. If he acts like this is all new to him and hems and haws about how he’s going to go about this, go to a different cosmetic dentist.
Then, before the new cosmetic dentist touches the teeth, go back to the office that caused the problem and let them see the estimate. Show them also a copy of my page that I mention above, and ask them to make it right, not by polishing it themselves (because they have shown they don’t know enough about cosmetic dentistry to trust them with this job), but by paying the expert cosmetic dentist whatever it will cost. If they don’t agree, I’d talk to a lawyer. I don’t think you should go so far as to sue them unless they’re totally unreasonable with you—I think you should just make enough noise that they’ll settle this by paying the fee required to fix the problem.
Don’t Use Prophy Jet Again
Once you have the polish back, then be careful to follow the maintenance instructions for the porcelain veneers. And, of course, don’t let another hygienist use a Prophy Jet on you. I’d also suggest using Supersmile whitening toothpaste daily to help maintain the beauty of your smile makeover.