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18 June 2024

Do dentists recommend ultrasonic tooth cleaners?

Considering an ultrasonic tooth cleaner at home?

We speak to two dental experts about the dangers of at-home dentistry equipment.

Dental work can sometimes be uncomfortable and feel pretty invasive, particularly when it comes to removing that sticky buildup of plaque on a tooth’s surface. It’s increasingly likely that you’ll encounter your dentist using an ultrasonic tooth cleaner instead of a hand tool like a dental scaler. These powerful cleaners use high-speed vibrations without the need for any scraping action, meaning they’re effective at removing plaque while still being gentle on the teeth and gums.

But do dentists recommend ultrasonic tooth cleaners for use at home? We spoke to Dr Mani Bhardwaj at The Smile Studios Dental Group and Dr Chanpreet Kalsi, general dentist at Hermes London Dental Clinic, who both explained why it’s a bad idea to use ultrasonic tooth cleaners at home.

What is an ultrasonic tooth cleaner?

“Ultrasonic tooth cleaners use high-frequency vibrations to break down and remove plaque and calculus without causing damage to the teeth and gums,” Dr Kalsi told us, adding that “they can effectively remove plaque and tartar buildup, particularly in hard-to-reach areas”.

Also known as an ultrasonic scaler or a water scaler, the instrument itself consists of a handle (held by the dentist), a water tip that vibrates and scales your teeth and a plugged-in connection to a water source.

The combination of ultrasonic vibrations and highly pressurised water is what removes the plaque, tartar and staining from the surface of your teeth. Though it may sound pretty loud when experienced in the dentist’s chair, an ultrasonic scaler is actually a gentle tool that’s nonetheless really effective at cleaning around each tooth and below the gum. Research has shown that the tiny bubbles formed around the cleaner’s tip are able to work without touching the tooth’s surface.

When performed correctly, ultrasonic teeth cleaning can deliver the same results as a manual scale and polish from a dental hygienist. But just because they’re readily available in stores, that doesn’t mean you should rush out to buy an ultrasonic tooth cleaner for home use.

Do dentists recommend ultrasonic tooth cleaners?

In a dental clinic, yes. At home? Absolutely not.

“Dentists do not recommend using ultrasonic tooth cleaners at home,” said Dr Mani, adding that “ultrasonic cleaners carry the risk of damage and trauma to your teeth and gums”.

It’s important to remember that while ultrasonic tooth cleaners are readily available for public purchase, they are still specialised medical tools that require training to be used properly. “Dental professionals tend to use these types of machines and certified products in a clinic under strict guidelines, and only after many years of extensive training,” Dr Mani told us.

Why should you not use an ultrasonic tooth cleaner at home?

These tools have sharp edges and wield a fair amount of power. Without training, a non-professional user can find it difficult to both maintain the proper position on the tooth and use the correct amount of pressure, which can easily damage your enamel and delicate gum tissue, and lead to irritation and/or trauma.

Improper use can even push tartar under the gum line, expediting an infection.

If you damage your enamel or cause other harm, you could require restorative care or further treatment. “Although this may not be the case for every scenario, the risk factor list associated with at-home ultrasonic tooth cleaners is quite large, and it is important to reiterate and consider these risks when using at-home dentistry tools,” said Dr Mani.

Is ultrasonic cleaning good for your teeth?

There are plenty of reasons to use an ultrasonic cleaner in a professional environment, however.

When compared with manual cleaning, an ultrasonic scaler is easier for many dental patients to tolerate: the process is quicker, it’s less invasive and there’s less danger of tooth damage. If you have weak teeth or are on the older side, it’s the safest tooth-cleaning method.

Are there any side effects of ultrasonic teeth cleaning?

Both the sound and the sensation of an ultrasonic tooth cleaner can be unpleasant for some. Similarly, if you have receding gums or particularly sensitive teeth, then ultrasonic cleaning might be a bit uncomfortable. In this instance, asking your hygienist to introduce the power of the machine can really help.

Ultrasonic cleaners shouldn’t be used on people who have pacemakers, and those with crowns, veneers or bridges may find their dental work can be loosened by the vibrations.

Most importantly, ultrasonic cleaning is not a replacement for your daily oral routine. It’s still important to brush twice daily with a good electric toothbrush, floss every day and get your teeth professionally cleaned every six months or so.

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