What is Coronal Polishing?

Coronal polishing removes plaque and stain from the exposed surface of teeth using a rotary tool with a rubber cap or brush and polishing tool. This procedure is part of oral prophylaxis, which is a preventative treatment to remove all calculus, soft deposits, plaques, and stains.

The entirety of the oral prophylaxis procedure is intended to be done by a licensed dentist or registered dental hygienist, but sometimes a dental assistant can aid in the process of coronal polishing. 

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Here’s what you should know about coronal polishing and how dental assistants can get involved.

What is Coronal Polishing For?

This procedure is standard practice for the following reasons:

  • Creates a smooth surface on the tooth that is less likely to retain stain, calculus, and plaque
  • Removes stains
  • Discourages the buildup of deposits
  • Prepares teeth for superficial dental procedures

What are the Benefits of Coronal Polishing?

Coronal polishing is not a substitute for prophylaxis because it does not remove calculus from the teeth. Calculus removal can only be done through thorough dental prophylaxis. However, it offers many other benefits:

  • Removes light surface stains
  • Removes light plaque buildup
  • Sealant placements
  • Dental dam placement
  • Orthopedic band and bracket placement
  • Remove temporary cement residue
  • Surface cleaning for selecting a tooth shade

What are the Drawbacks of Coronal Polishing?

While coronal polishing offers many benefits, there are instances where it should not be done:

  • When a patient has gold, composite, acrylic veneers, or restorations
  • When a patient has hypertension, Addison’s disease, Cushing’s syndrome, and metabolic alkalosis
  • When a patient has an infectious or respiratory disease
  • When a patient has periodontitis or gingivitis, or unhealthy, spongy, edematous tissue
  • Recession with tooth sensitivity
  • Primary teeth with large pulp chambers

What is Selective Polishing?

Dental assistants are responsible for deciding when polishing a patient’s teeth should or should not be done because of how it directly affects their oral health. 

Selective polishing allows specific teeth that have visible stains to be corrected while skipping teeth that may not need polishing or have decalcification and therefore should not be polished. 

When Can a Dental Assistant Perform the Procedure?

When a dental assistant can perform the coronal polishing procedure varies from state to state. 

In California, only a currently-licensed Registered Dental Assistant can perform the procedure. In Texas, dentists can delegate the procedure to a dental assistant with direct supervision after they have completed a course on the procedure and have two years of experience as an assistant.

If you’re a dental assistant interested in performing this process, check your state’s laws to find out how you can become certified to perform coronal polishing on patients.