A teeth cleaning is a preventive dental procedure that removes plaque and tartar build-up on the surface of teeth and along the gum line. It is helpful to talk to your dentist about teeth cleanings and the benefits they provide to determine why they are highly recommended several times each year.You can learn more about…
How Is a Teeth Cleaning Performed?
Going to a general dentist for a teeth cleaning appointment is an essential part of good dental hygiene. While these appointments do not replace regular brushing and flossing, they help address plaque buildup that inevitably occurs with time and allow a dental professional to identify any areas of concern. While the exact process used during regular cleaning appointments may vary from office to office, there are several steps patients can expect when going in for a visit.
The importance of regular teeth cleaning from a dentist
While it is recommended that adults and children with average dental health visit a dentist every six months for a basic cleaning and exam, the American Dental Association reported that only 52.3% of surveyed adults in 2014 claimed to have visited the dentist this often. 21.3% of the participants said that they had gone several years without visiting the dentist. Among the reasons cited for not making an appointment included cost, fear of visiting the dentist, and difficulty getting an appointment. Understanding what one can expect when getting a teeth cleaning can help patients learn the importance of this appointment and ease dental anxiety.
What to expect during a teeth cleaning
During a cleaning appointment, a dental hygienist uses several tools:
- Ultrasonic plaque remover
- Mouth mirror
- Dental scaler
- Sickle probe
- Saliva ejector
- Tooth polisher
- Dental floss
The hygienist uses these tools to remove plaque and generally clean the mouth. This procedure takes approximately 30 minutes and is followed by an examination from the dentist.
Examination and rinse
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of removing plaque buildup, the hygienist may first ask the patient to rinse with a pre-procedural mouthwash for about 30 seconds. The ingredients in the rinse can vary, with common solutions including chlorhexidine, alcohol, povidone-iodine, or even essential oils, and the purpose of is to reduce microbes and minimize the risk of cross-contamination. The rinse is followed by a quick examination with a mouth mirror.
Plaque and tartar removal
If plaque is not adequately brushed or flossed away, it hardens and mineralizes into tartar that continues to accumulate with time and contributes to periodontal and gum disease. It is difficult to remove this calculus at home once it has formed, which is one reason why professional teeth cleaning appointments are so essential. An ultrasonic plaque remover uses electric vibration to loosen plaque. A handheld scaler helps further remove any remaining buildup.
Teeth polishing and flossing
Next, the hygienist cleans the teeth and helps remove any surface stains and brighten the appearance of the teeth with a polisher. This electric tool features a prophy cup with prophylaxis toothpaste that is applied to each tooth. The hygienist finishes by flossing the teeth with dental floss and may also brush on fluoride treatment.
While anxiety about pain or discomfort during a teeth cleaning is understandable, this procedure is important for maintaining the appearance and health of the teeth. Patients should communicate with the hygienist if they have any conditions that cause pain, such as a temporomandibular disorder or extreme fear. Often, there are ways the hygienist can make the patient more comfortable while ensuring good oral hygiene is maintained.
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