What Happens During a Dental Cleaning?

The recommended number of dental cleanings you should have per year is two. But, perhaps you don’t go as often as you should. Maybe you have a fear of the dentist, and thinking of a dental cleaning gives you anxiety. Knowing the process of an oral exam can ease your concerns and make it easier for you to attend your biannual appointments. 

During each cleaning, your dentist and dental hygienist look at your teeth and examine your daily oral health routine. However, the process is a bit more complicated than simply looking at your teeth. While it is not overly complex, cleanings take time and specific steps. However, it generally shouldn’t be anything that creates worry for you. 

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Steps Before Your Cleaning

Before your actual dental cleaning, you will undergo a physical examination. Then, a dentist, or more likely a dental hygienist, will look at your teeth and mouth to make a plan for your cleaning. The goal of a dental cleaning is to remove any plaque or tartar buildup on the surface of your teeth. 

Tartar is a calcified or hardened form of plaque that can create a suitable environment for cavity-causing bacteria. While it is normal for there to be bacteria in your mouth, too much of it will begin to cause problems. If tartar is not removed, it will eventually progress into advanced tooth decay and gum disease

At least once a year, your dentist will take x-rays of your mouth to make sure that there are no unseen issues developing in your teeth, gums, or jaw. An x-ray will allow your dentist to see within your mouth to see if you may have problems in the future. 

Steps During Your Cleaning

After the physical examination, your dental hygienist will begin the plaque and tartar removal with a scaler. A scaler is a dental instrument that scrapes away plaque and can get into the narrow spaces between your teeth and gums. The more plaque and tartar on your teeth, the more your teeth will need to be scraped. 

Following the scraping, your teeth will be brushed with gritty toothpaste to completely remove plaque and polish your teeth. Your dental professional will use a high-powered electric toothbrush, but you shouldn’t experience any pain or discomfort during this step. It should be similar to you brushing your own teeth. 

Flossing your teeth is the next step in your dental cleaning. Even if you floss your teeth regularly at home, it is good to have it done by a professional. A dental hygienist will likely be able to floss closer to your gums than you are able to. It will also remove any leftover plaque from previous removal techniques. 

Finally, you will rinse your mouth, likely with a fluoride rinse. After the cleaning process is complete, your dentist will review your examination with you. If you need to alter your daily oral care routine, they will give you suggestions on how to best care for your teeth.