Have you ever entered a dental office and thought, “This sure smells funny in here”? There are certain smells common in most dental offices that are quite distinct. What is that scent? Well, as best I can determine there are three things that are quite distinctively dental scents. First is Acrylic monomer. That is the volatile liquid building blocks that make up plastic like materials in dentures and retainers. When a retainer is adjusted by grinding the acrylic, you usually pick up a little of that scent. This is especially true when your retainer is brand new. There is a smell more often found in pediatric offices called Formocresol, a preservative that is used in a procedure called a pulpotomy.
Finally there is Eugenol, or oil of cloves. It is used in temporary filling materials. It actually smells quite good as cloves are usually pleasant. Many years ago there were several other things as well, but as science advances the scents are becoming more pleasant and less noticeable. Now you are just as likely to smell the Piña-Colada scented topical anesthetic, the Strawberry scented nitrous oxide nosepiece (Mr. Nose), or the Cookie Dough flavored prophylaxis paste. Hopefully, those are the pleasant scents your children will remember most.