Dental Cleaning Explained: The Importance of Teeth Cleaning, What Happens During One, & More!

Regular dental cleanings are a necessary piece of any complete dental hygiene puzzle. A good home program is the first step, but a visit to your dental hygienist every six months is the second part of a solid oral health plan.

You might be tempted to skip the dental hygienist, though, especially if you follow a great cleaning routine at home. But, it’s important to understand that an appointment at your dentist’s office isn’t because your home plan is inadequate in any way.  A hygienist can provide a level of cleaning that is not possible at home.

The Importance of Keeping Up with Regular Teeth Cleaning Visits at the Dentist

Why is a teeth cleaning at the dentist’s office necessary if a good home hygiene program is followed? The answer focuses on your gum health as well as the plaque and tartar that builds up on your teeth, even though you may brush and floss regularly.

Your dental hygienist is a professional trained to remove plaque and tartar as well as monitor the health of your gums. They have special tools that enable them to perform a deeper cleaning than you can.

The goals of regular professional cleanings are to:

  • Prevent cavities.
  • Maintain and promote good oral health.
  • Prevent periodontal disease.
  • Prevent tartar buildup on your teeth.
  • Remove surface stains.

The dentist will examine your mouth after your cleaning to ensure there are no serious oral health issues such as cavities, gum disease, or oral cancer. 

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The American Dental Association recommendation is to have a cleaning done every six months. The good thing is that most dental insurance providers include these cleanings in their coverage if you receive them six months apart.

What Happens During a Dental Cleaning Visit?

A dental cleaning is performed most often by the dental hygienist in your dentist’s office. Before they begin the actual cleaning, they will perform a physical exam of your mouth with a small mirror to check your gums for inflammation or any other problems. 

If you are wondering, “how long does a dental cleaning usually take?”, it should take about 30 minutes if your home care regimen is good. If there is a great deal of tartar buildup, the dental cleaning can take an hour or more.

Several techniques may be used during a cleaning, depending on the condition of your teeth and gums:

    • Tooth scaling: This removes the layers of substances that naturally accumulate on your teeth. The dental hygienist uses a hand tool called a scaler to get rid of plaque and tartar along your gum line and between your teeth. The scaler creates a scraping sound and the more tartar build-up there is on your teeth, the more scraping is needed. The hygienist will use a variety of ultrasonic instruments that use vibrations to gently loosen up large pieces of tartar. The debris will also be sprayed away with water as it is loosened.
    • Debridement and root planing (if needed): These techniques may not be needed if you have maintained a good home program. These are even deeper scalings of the root surfaces to remove heavy tartar deposits and smooth out rough areas. Smooth root surfaces keep bacteria, tartar, and plaque from building up under the gum line. Planing may be recommended to prevent infection, which often requires medication directly applied to the area. A follow-up visit may be necessary as the last step.

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    • Brushing and flossing: When your teeth are tartar-free, the hygienist then uses a high-powered electric brush to brush them. This is a way to remove any tartar left behind from the scaler. And even though you floss regularly at home, our dental hygienist can get deep between your teeth and identify any potential trouble spots where there may be bleeding at the gums.
    • Tooth polishing: A polisher (a hand tool with a soft rubber tip) is used to smooth and shine the surface of the teeth.
    • Applying fluoride treatment: The last step is often a fluoride treatment. This is a protectant on your teeth to help fight against cavities until your next cleaning. It is often applied to your teeth in the form of a foamy gel (or sometimes a sticky paste) and left on for about one minute. Our hygienist will tell you how soon you can eat and drink after this treatment.

    The Difference Between a Regular Teeth Cleaning and a Deep Cleaning

    So, why might you need a deep cleaning (debridement) instead of a “regular” dental cleaning? In simple terms, a deep cleaning is just more extensive than a regular cleaning. 

    A regular cleaning supplements and maintains your home regime to prevent cavities and gum health. If tartar buildup has become excessive, though, a deep cleaning (and maybe root planing) might be necessary to remove the tartar. The technician will use a special tool to clean deep into the pockets around each tooth to completely remove tartar and plaque.

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    Deep cleaning sessions are sometimes demanding and often require more than a single appointment. The cleaning needed is more extensive, and we have to monitor the teeth and gums before completing the process. Root planing is only done as part of a deep dental cleaning, not during a regular cleaning.

    It is true deep cleaning and root planing tend to be more uncomfortable than a regular cleaning. If your gums are sensitive, local anesthesia may be administered to make the process more comfortable. The dentist may recommend the use of a desensitizing paste to provide sensitivity relief.  But left untreated, the pockets in your gums will keep growing. The buildup of plaque and tartar will also continue and then you risk bone loss.


    Dental Cleanings: An Essential Part of Your Oral Health

    It is critical to find a dentist and dental hygienist you trust. Our team here at TLC Dental Center has the training and certification to build that trust as part of your dental health care team. We can help keep your teeth in gums in the best possible condition and ensure you have a smile that you are proud to show off.

    Contact us today to make an appointment for your teeth cleaning!