Q: Which aspects of your new smile need little or no modification?
A: Normal chewing function, toothpaste, toothbrush, floss.
Q: Which aspects of your new smile need modification or specialization?
A: Frequency of professional dental hygiene visits, specialized hygiene instruments.
Let’s start by addressing the categories that require little or no modification…
Porcelain veneers are quite strong. They can confidently be used for normal chewing function. Notice we highlighted normal chewing function? The standard recommendation to avoid chipping and premature breakage is: don’t do anything with your veneers that you shouldn’t normally do with your natural teeth (i.e. open plastic bags, bite into hard candy, etc. you know…common sense stuff).
Any fluoridated toothpaste that you would use for your natural teeth will do just fine for your veneers. The fluoride is essential to ensure that the margins (where the porcelain meets natural tooth) and the natural tooth remaining behind/under the veneers – which are both susceptible to decay – remain cavity free.
If you want to take extra precaution though, there are toothpastes on the market (i.e. ‘Supersmile’) designed to keep stains off the porcelain, without scratching or dulling their brilliant sheen.
The only modifcation necessary to your toothpaste would be if you prefer the “natural” toothpastes (i.e. Tom’s of Maine, et. al.) as they lack fluoride, and worse, often contain excessive amounts of abrasives (i.e. aluminum hydroxide, calcium carbonate, calcium hydrogen phosphates, silicas and/or zeolites) otherwise known as chalk, which will scratch and dull porcelain over time.
As with toothpaste, any toothbrush you would use for your natural teeth will be just fine on your new porcelain enhanced smile. Yes, this includes sonic toothbrushes such as Sonicare and the like. The only caution here would be to not let the hard plastic part of the toothbrush accidently hit the edge of your teeth where the porcelain is thinner. There is a chance, albeit very small, that the powerful sonic vibrations could chip or crack the incisal edge of the veneer.
Flossing should be done AT LEAST once a day if not more. The technique itself is the same for natural teeth as for your new smile (see the post “How to Floss” for proper flossing technique).
The only modification that is advisable to make with regard to your flossing would be to consider doing it more frequently. Ideally you should floss after every meal!
What does require modification? There are certain instruments (tools) that hygienists may use during routine hygiene procedures that should be modified or completely avoided around your porcelain veneers. These are: prophy jet, prophy paste, ultrasonic scalers.
The Prophy jet is an air powered instrument used to remove surface stains. It blows out a powerful slurry of water mixed with heavy abrasives, which does not harm enamel, but will remove the superficial glaze that gives porcelain veneers their natural looking sheen.
Prophy Paste (polishing paste):
This is the stuff that the hygienist uses at the end of the appointment which leaves your teeth feeling silky smooth. As with the Prophy jet, these pastes contain a significant amount of abrasives which don’t harm enamel but will create micro-scratches in the porcelain that overtime will lead to a dull, less natural looking appearance. Ask your hygienist to avoid using this at least on the visible surface of the porcelain in order to preserve the superficial glaze.
Ultrasonic Scaler (Cavitron):
The ultrasonic scaler (sometimes referred to as the “cavitron”) is your best friend when it comes to your natural teeth. It is the most effective, yet gentle, way to rid your teeth of calcified deposits as well as the more harmful bacteria infesting your gums.
However, when used around porcelain veneers, it poses the risk of chipping or cracking the margins. This is because the margin (where the porcelain meets the natural tooth) is specifically designed to have a thinner, feathered edge in order to integrate seamlessly with the tooth. Again, this is by design and is the standard of care in cosmetic dentistry but it does prohibit the use of ultrasonic scalers.
There is no scientific reason why you need to increase your hygiene interval for the sake of your newly placed porcelain veneers. It is generally recommended to follow the protocol already established by your hygiene team because it has been set according to your specific periodontal needs.
BUT, since porcelain veneers often represent a significant financial investment, many dentists and patients opt for more frequent hygiene intervals for practicality sake. It is the “better safe than sorry” approach; the idea being that more frequent cleaning and inspection will help prevent premature breakdown by early identification of potential threats. Thereby ensuring maximum protection of your investment.
Some opt to do this at least for the first year after placement of the veneers, while others make it a lifetime modification. Either way, professional hygiene care is essential for the maintenance of your new smile.
NOTE: Most hygienists are already fully aware of all of these modifications, especially if you receive your routine hygiene services with a cosmetic dental office (preferably the same one where your veneers were made). However, if you receive hygiene care from a clinic or non-cosmetic office, it is highly advisable to review these concerns with your hygiene team before any services are provided in order to ensure complete protection of your newly enhanced smile.
Follow these advanced tips to enjoy your new smile for years to come!