I had a fellow dental hygienist ask me to write on this topic. One of the main purposes of polishing is to remove extrinsic/external stain.

What is Polishing

In the dental hygiene codes, it’s referred to as “stain removal (00531), and in the dental codes, it’s polishing (11101). A rubber cup can be used or an air polisher may be used. This post is focusing on the rubber cup procedure.

Stain Removal

To polish for stain removal entails moving from coarse to medium to fine grit. The level of coarseness is indicated based on the severity of the stain, and it would only be done where the stain exists. After switching grits, you get a smoother and smoother surface every time you change the grit. Also, there are different choices for rubber cups (shapes, firmness, etc.).

Tailored To Your Needs

When dental hygienists work, they make an assessment as to which options to choose from; therefore, it is tailored for your needs. There are also options for what medicament should be used like desensitizing, fluoride, or flavour.

Who knew it was so complicated?

Is it safe? Does it harm the tooth?

A dental hygienist is trained to not cause damage. There is a minute amount of damage that may occur (microns). Many factors would contribute to this (paste, pressure, operator, etc.), and studies on this indicate that it can vary.

Also, it can be used for biofilm/plaque removal, which would help reduce gingivitis and leave the feeling of “freshness.”

After Scaling

The practitioner/dental hygienist may use this before working to see the surfaces better before debridement; it’s up to the operator how they like to work. This would be considered therapeutic. In this way, a non-abrasive or maybe the desensitizing formula would be chosen to remove the remaining soft deposits after the scaling/debridement.

What’s your favourite flavour?

Dental hygiene is more complicated than just brushing and flossing.

We can have 1 tool and use it for another purpose.


American Academy For Oral Systemic Health


Ontario Dental Hygienists’ Association