Keeping teeth clean is important to ensure the health of your teeth and gums. Plaque and trapped food can lead to tooth decay and the gum disease called gingivitis. Brushing your teeth is a good start, and flossing is even better, but the American Dental Association also recommends that you have a professional tooth cleaning at least once or twice a year. The pumice mixture used by your dentist or dental hygienist can clean more deeply than any tooth-cleaning product that you can use at home.
Pumice is formed when lava containing high levels of gases and water erupts from a volcano. The escaping gas bubbles make the lava frothy, which is what gives the cooled pumice its light density and pocked appearance. The young volcanic fields necessary to form pumice are found in 50 different countries, according to the Mineral Information Institute. In the United States pumice is produced in Oregon, New Mexico, California and Arizona.
The gritty texture of pumice makes it ideal for polishing smooth surfaces. The outer layer of your teeth, called the enamel, is the hardest substance in your body. When the surface of your enamel becomes scratched or pitted, plaque and bacteria have more places to hide and a rougher surface to cling to. When your teeth are polished with pumice – which is often mixed with a flavoring agent – it removes the plaque and bacteria and smooths the surface of your teeth.
A 2007 study published in the "Journal of the American Dental Association" found that when teeth are polished with a combination of acid and pumice, the difference in appearance was visible in every case. So, not only does polishing with pumice remove plaque and bacteria, but it can also polish out stains that occur when your teeth react with the foods you eat and the beverages you drink. It also takes care of discoloration from smoking.
In addition to removing stains and bacteria, having your teeth cleaned professionally with pumice gets you to a dentist's office on a regular basis. This gives your dentist a chance to check your mouth for signs of cavities, gum disease or oral cancer.
The pumice that your dentist uses is formulated especially to be used on teeth. The pumice stones you find in the drugstore or cosmetic section of your supermarket are not the same. Don't ever attempt to save money or time by cleaning your own teeth with a pumice stone intended for use on your feet.
- HealthyTeeth.org: The Parts of a Tooth
- Mineral Information Institute: Pumice
- WorldDental.org: The Truth About Teeth Cleaning and Deep Tooth Cleaning
- “Journal of the American Dental Association”; An Evaluation of a Technique to Remove Stains From Teeth Using Microabrasion; Richard B.T. Price, et. al.; 2003
- American Dental Association: Cleaning Your Teeth and Gums