What happens at a professional dental cleaning?
Photo by Anna Shvets
Did you miss that last dental exam or cleaning appointment? Are your nerves getting the better of you? Fear of going to the dentist is widespread. One Harvard survey estimated that up to 24 percent of people worldwide fear going to see a dentist. However, it’s important to overcome those nerves and see a dentist, even if it’s as routine as a dental cleaning. To help you with this, we want to make sure you understand what goes on during a dental cleaning.
An overall exam during your dental cleaning
The dentist or the dental hygienist will do a comprehensive oral exam before starting your dental cleaning.
A comprehensive exam is simple, and it doesn’t take very long. They’ll be looking inside your mouth using a small dental mirror to ensure they can see even the hard-to-spot areas. They will make notes and pass those to the dentist to discuss with you. If you happen to have a severe issue, they may ask you to wait to do the cleaning and instead have you consult with the dentist one-on-one to see if it needs to be handled before your dental cleaning can commence.
X-rays and dental cleanings
While you’re getting your regular exam before your cleaning, your dentist may want to take X-rays of your teeth. This might be the most uncomfortable part of the entire process, but it’s also vital. X-rays will check up on the overall health of your teeth and check for things that could become a problem later on.
X-rays are a standard part of a regular dental exam, and you might as well get everything out of the way at once.
Tartar and plaque build-up
Even if you brush your teeth religiously, you can have plaque build-up. There are places that even the fanciest of toothbrushes won’t reach. For example, the spaces between your teeth are a prime spot for plaque to build up and turn into tartar.
Once it reaches this stage, it requires a dental hygienist or a dentist to remove it. That’s done with the help of a tool called a scaler that the hygienist will use to gently remove the hard built-on tartar.
This process won’t be painful, but it may be uncomfortable and feel strange overall. It’s called scaling, and some offices prefer to do it manually while others use a powered device to speed up the process.
Everyone wants a shining smile
Even mild build-up of film-like substances can make your teeth look dull. The solution for this is in your dental cleaning. Your hygienist or dentist will polish your teeth with a flavored tooth polish. Often, you’ll get to choose what flavor you want. This tool is loud and reminiscent of the same sound that the drills in a dental office make, so be prepared.
The polishing stage helps to remove any remaining plaque after your scaling has been finished and can also help to remove stains.
However, your dental cleaning won’t hurt. It’s something that’s a painless and straightforward process, so the only thing you have to handle is the sound.
Flossing and fluoride
After your teeth have been polished, your hygienist will thoroughly floss your teeth. This means you are almost done. This helps to ensure that any plaque that could have been missed between your teeth is removed. It may also reveal any problems with bleeding gums that need to be noted in your dental chart.
When they are finished with the flossing, you may get a fluoride treatment to ensure that your teeth remain free of cavities if your dentist feels it’s necessary.
After you head home
Don’t be surprised if your mouth feels different after a cleaning. When they scale your teeth, it removes some of the roughness you may have become accustomed to. Your hygienist will give you instructions on how to take care of your teeth going forward and likely schedule you for your next appointment.
Reasons to have regular dental cleanings
How often you need to get dental cleanings can depend on several factors and is best left up to the dentist and hygienist to decide. It’s not one of the appointments you should put off, however. Dental cleanings can help prevent dental problems in the long run.
Dental cleanings can help prevent cavities and gum disease. Both of which have been connected to your overall health and wellbeing.
Having your regular dental cleanings ensures that any more dangerous problems get noticed quickly during the pre-cleaning exam. It’s also a great time to bring up any oral health issues you might be having. Things like dry mouth or sensitivity can often be addressed during these appointments.
Deep dental cleaning
What we’ve discussed so far is regular dental cleaning. Your dentist or hygienist may recommend that you get a deep dental cleaning if you have signs of gum disease or other factors that need to be addressed. Deep cleaning is just what it sounds like a more extensive cleaning process. This type of cleaning maybe a little more uncomfortable as they go deeper and do things like deep scaling below your gum line.
They also use water sprayers and often ultrasonic tools that help to remove extra tartar. Root planing is another part of the deep cleaning process, and it’s designed to help smooth the roots of your teeth so that they can stay cleaner.
Deep cleaning is done with local anesthetics to ensure you are as comfortable as possible during the process.
Deep cleanings are usually done in two separate visits around four to six weeks apart. These appointments require a little more aftercare than a typical dental cleaning. They often place antibiotics on the teeth during the cleaning and then prescribe an antibiotic mouth wash to ensure that any germs are dealt with. In the first few days after your appointment, your gums may bleed slightly, and you may be more sensitive to hot and cold temperatures in food and drinks.
Deep cleanings can significantly improve the health of the gums and, in the long run, save you from more significant dental problems as time goes on. Making regular appointments as recommended by your dentist or dental hygienist can help to improve your overall oral health.