Dental cleanings are one of the most important things we can do to maintain our oral health–regular exams and cleanings come in behind only regular brushing and flossing and a good diet in terms of caring for our teeth and gums. While your dentist or oral hygienist performs the cleaning, it’s good for us as the patients to understand what cleaning is and what the process is designed to achieve. So what happens during a cleaning? What goes into it? What should we do to care for our teeth after? Let’s find out.
The first step during a dental cleaning is a dental exam, which gives your dentist and/or oral hygienist a chance to look around your teeth and gums and see how things are going. They’ll check both for overall health and for specific problems like inflamed gums or gingivitis, cavities and other signs of tooth decay, or any damage to your teeth or gums. Sometimes an exam might include x-rays or other imaging in order to ensure that your dental health care provider is getting a thorough view of what’s going on. Dental exams are generally not lengthy processes and rarely result in physical discomfort to the patient.
After the exam is complete and assuming that it didn’t reveal anything that needed to be addressed immediately, your dentist or oral hygienist will move on to the dental cleaning itself. There are several steps to a dental cleaning, and while your needs may vary most cleanings go something like this:
- The first step in the cleaning process involves removing plaque and tartar from the teeth and gums, including the teeth below the gumline. Using a small dental mirror and a series of metal tools, your dentist or dental hygienist will manually remove plaque and tartar by scraping them away. You may hear or even feel a bit of the scraping, but that’s normal and it won’t hurt your teeth and gums. This process may take a bit longer if too much plaque has solidified and hardened into tartar. Your dental hygienist will periodically rinse your mouth out to remove the debris generated during this stage.
- The next step in cleaning involves cleaning your teeth by brushing them with gritty toothpaste and a professional-grade electric toothbrush. This helps remove any remaining plaque, tartar, or debris while also deep cleaning your teeth to help restore some of their shine. This stage of the cleaning is just like brushing with an electric toothbrush, albeit performed for you by a professional and with grittier toothpaste for better cleaning ability.
- After the brushing, your dentist or dental hygienist will floss your teeth thoroughly, again to remove any remaining debris and ensure that your teeth and gums are as clean as possible. They’ll follow this by rinsing your mouth thoroughly to double-check that everything’s been cleared away.
- The final step of most cleanings is a fluoride treatment. This involves filing a bite-shaped tray with a fluoride gel and having the patient bite on it, holding it in the mouth for a few minutes. This helps remineralize the teeth and keep them strong and healthy in the wake of the cleaning.
While this is a good description of a typical dental cleaning, sometimes a more thorough cleaning becomes necessary which adds extra steps to the process. If periodontal disease is present, sometimes the gums will pull away from the teeth they protect and allow plaque, tartar, and bacteria to grow before the gumline. In these cases, your dental hygienist may need to use a technique called scaling to remove the problems below the gumline. This will likely be followed by a deplaning, which smooths out the roots of the teeth so the gums can reattach. Should this prove necessary for you, your dentist or dental hygienist will explain in detail the treatment you’ll need and what will happen during the treatment.
Dental cleanings are a vital part of keeping your teeth healthy and happy, but they’re unfortunately also easy to put off or forget about. If you’re due for a cleaning, don’t delay. Get in touch today and our helpful staff will make an appointment for you to come in and take the next step towards better oral health.