American Academy of Pediatric DentistryCalifornia Society of Pediatric Dentistry


American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
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A state unit organization
of the American Academy
of Pediatric Dentistry

American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

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Regulatory Matters - Coronal Polishing and Oral Prophylaxis

Coronal Polishing and Oral Prophylaxis

When is coronal polishing considered an oral prophylaxis? The answer, of course, under the California Dental Practice Act, is never.

Section 1086 of the California Code of Regulations permits a Registered Dental Assistant to perform coronal polishing subject to certain conditions. One of these conditions is that the procedure must be performed under the direct supervision of a licensed dentist and only pursuant to the order, control and full professional responsibility of that supervising dentist. Under the provisions of direct supervision, the procedure must be checked and approved by the dentist prior to dismissal of the patient from the office. The Act states that "this procedure shall not be intended or interpreted as a complete oral prophylaxis (a procedure which can be performed only by a licensed dentist or registered dental hygienist)" and that the licensed dentist or a registered dental hygienist "shall determine that the teeth to be polished are free of calculus or other extraneous material prior to coronal polishing."

Section 1067 defines coronal polishing as a "procedure limited to the removal of plaque and stain from exposed tooth surfaces, utilizing an appropriate rotary instrument with rubber cup or brush and a polishing agent."

An oral prophylaxis is defined in the same section as "preventive dental procedures including complete removal of explorer-detectable calculus, soft deposits, plaque, stains, and the smoothing of unattached tooth surfaces. The objective of this treatment shall be creation of an environment in which hard and soft tissues can be maintained in good health by the patient."

Only a currently-licensed Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) may perform coronal polishing, which is considered part of an oral prophylaxis. Since January 1, 2006, all Registered Dental Assistants have been required to have completed an approved course in coronal polishing to obtain or renew their licenses.

Paul Reggiardo, DDS
Public Policy Advocate, California Society of Pediatric Dentistry  

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