Vol. 3 No. 11 (2023)
Health Technology Reviews

Routine Dental Polishing for Oral Health

Published November 7, 2023

Key Messages

What Is the Issue?

  • Professional dental care is important to help maintain oral health. Routine dental cleaning usually includes both scaling and polishing. Scaling is the removal of plaque and tartar from the crown and root surfaces of teeth. Polishing is the removal of residual plaque and external stains from the teeth.
  • To support decisions about the optimal components for professional dental cleaning, it is important to understand the potential benefits and harms of routine dental polishing when compared to no routine dental polishing.

What Did We Do?

  • We searched for clinical and cost-effectiveness literature comparing routine dental polishing with no routine dental polishing. We also looked for evidence-based guidelines that provide recommendations about the use of routine dental polishing for the maintenance of oral health in adults and children.
  • An information specialist conducted a search of peer-reviewed and grey literature sources published between January 1, 2018, and September 28, 2023.
  • Documents were excluded if we could not isolate the effects of dental polishing from other dental procedures or if polishing techniques were used for a purpose other than the routine polishing of teeth.

What Did We Find?

  • We did not find any studies directly evaluating the clinical or cost-effectiveness of routine dental polishing versus no routine dental polishing, or guidelines about the use of routine dental polishing, that met the inclusion criteria for this review.
  • We identified limited literature that examines the combined effects of routine scaling and polishing. Research is needed that distinguishes the effects of routine dental polishing from the effects of other dental procedures.

What Does This Mean?

  • Without comparative clinical or cost-effectiveness evidence about routine dental polishing versus no routine dental polishing, decision-makers may also wish to consider that patients value routine scaling and polishing, and that the cost of dental care may be a barrier to visiting the dentist for some people.
  • New polishing methods, such as air powder polishing, may also be useful to consider when making decisions about routine polishing to support dental health. These methods include some of the benefits of scaling and may present opportunities to reduce periodontal inflammation or the length of a dental appointment.