What is Oral Prophylaxis?

Oral prophylaxis is a highly effective way to reduce the risk of oral decay and remove plaque from the teeth. It has seen a surge in popularity recently, as ultrasound treatments have become more affordable and accessible.

However, the process is still often confused with coronal polishing. Anyone training to become a dental assistant needs to know the difference between these procedures and how an assistant can get involved. Our guide explains all. 

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Difference Between Oral Prophylaxis and Coronal Polishing

The major difference between oral prophylaxis and coronal polishing is:

  • Prophylaxis involves using a combination of ultrasonic, scaling, and polishing instruments to manually remove plaque and tar from the teeth. This build-up can cause bacterial infections and lead to decay over time. Therefore, oral prophylaxis is a preventative and therapeutic treatment for patients.
  • Coronal polishing involves using conventional instruments to remove visible plaque and tar build-up from the teeth. This helps to whiten the teeth and remove stains but doesn’t address bacterial plaque and tar lodged deeper between the teeth and the gums.

The difference is a matter of precision, and that coronal polishing doesn’t use ultrasonic scaling instruments. For this reason, oral prophylaxis may only be performed in full by a licensed dental practitioner or registered dental hygienist.

Coronal polishing might be considered as a component of oral prophylaxis, but its application is mostly cosmetic in this context.

When Can Dental Assistants Get Involved with Oral Prophylaxis?

Under close supervision by a licensed dentist, a registered dental assistant can perform the coronal polishing step of oral prophylaxis. The dentist must be present during this work and must inspect the polishing afterward before it is considered finished.

The full procedure can only be performed by a licensed dentist or registered dental hygienist. This is due to its highly technical nature and the sensitivity of the instruments being used. The procedure can also be somewhat expensive, meaning that it should always be handled by an experienced practitioner.

Coronal polishing is often an integral step before ultrasonic instruments are used, so dental assistants can still be very involved in the procedure.

Getting More Involved as a Dental Assistant

Showing willingness to learn and help out with technical procedures is a great quality in a dental assistant. It’s also an excellent way to advance your knowledge and become an indispensable part of your practice. 

Although oral prophylaxis can only be performed by a licensed dentist, volunteering to help out with coronal polishing and wherever else you can is highly recommended to further your career as a dental assistant.