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Is it safe for a hygienist to use an ultrasonic scaler on my porcelain veneers?

I recently got some lovely new porcelain veneers placed, and I just had my first dental cleaning since I got them. The hygienist used that water-blasting thing to clean my teeth. She said it’s called an “ultrasonic scaler.” I’m not sure how it works, but it made me a little nervous. Ever since spending all that money to get these beautiful veneers, I’m so afraid of anything that could ruin them. I was too shy to ask the hygienist if the ultrasonic scaler would damage my veneers because I figured she knew what she was doing.

But I’m still worried. Could you tell me whether it was safe to use that machine on my new veneers or am I just being paranoid?

Thanks,

—Becky from Columbus, OH

Hello Becky,

To put your mind at ease, the short answer is that an ultrasonic scaler will not harm your porcelain veneers, provided the hygienist knows how to use it well.

An ultrasonic scaler works by generating ultrasonic vibrations that help dislodge stubborn debris and kill bacteria in place. The metal tip vibrates back and forth, and the handpiece also generates a stream of water to help keep the metal tip cool and flush away the debris. So it’s the vibrations that do all the work, not the stream of water.

These ultrasonic vibrations are the key to helping hygienists clean teeth quickly and thoroughly, especially during periodontal treatments, but they can sometimes be damaging to materials that are softer than tooth enamel. For example, cementum (the tissue that covers tooth roots) can experience microscopic damage by ultrasonic scalers.

And, yes, an ultrasonic scaler can even chip the margin of a porcelain veneer.

But as we mentioned earlier, this depends on how a hygienist uses the device. A skilled hygienist will use a light hand, move the tip of the ultrasonic scaler smoothly over the teeth, and won’t use it long over the margins of restorations like porcelain veneers.

To reiterate, as long as your hygienist knows what he or she is doing when using an ultrasonic scaler, then your veneers should be just fine during a professional dental cleaning.

This post has been published on behalf of Owasso dentist Dr. Heng Lim.