Things to Expect During a Routine Dental Cleaning

Regular dental cleanings are an essential part of maintaining good oral health. They remove the buildup of plaque and tartar from the surface of your teeth and underneath them, reducing your risk for gum disease and tooth decay.

Besides removing biofilm and stains, routine cleanings also help to detect early signs of dental problems like gingivitis. But what exactly happens during a dental cleaning appointment?

Your Hygienist will Examine Your Mouth

We’ve all heard that brushing twice a day and flossing regularly can help prevent serious dental problems like gum disease, tooth decay and more. But routine visits to the dentist can also help ensure that you avoid these problems altogether, as well as catch any signs of them early when they are most treatable.

Your dental hygienist will begin your appointment with a thorough examination of your mouth and the surrounding soft tissues to look for any redness, inflammation or other issues. This is also an opportunity for you to point out any areas of concern that require further attention or treatment.

Next, the hygienist will use a tool called a scaler to remove plaque and tartar from the surface of your teeth as well as below and between the gum line. While this can be a bit uncomfortable, it is necessary to protect your health and hygiene. It is also important to keep in mind that gum disease can have a severe effect on your overall health, including cardiovascular diseases, lungs and even premature births for pregnant women.

Once the hygienist has removed all the built up debris, she will rinse and suction your mouth to remove any leftover toothpaste or debris from the cleaning process. Then, she will apply a fluoride treatment to your teeth to protect them from decay.

Lastly, the hygienist will perform a periodontal probing, where she inserts a small handheld instrument between your teeth and gums to check for signs of gum disease such as loose gums or bone loss. This is an important part of your exam, as it can help identify potential issues before they worsen and lead to more serious dental problems.

Your Hygienist will Remove Plaque and Tartar

A hygienist uses teeth cleaning tools to scrape the surfaces of your teeth and remove the hardened plaque and tartar that you can’t remove with brushing or flossing. This may take a little time, but it is usually not painful. They may also use a special tool called an ultrasonic scaler, which is faster and more effective than manual dental scaling instruments. The hygienist will also rinse your mouth with water or an air-water syringe to get rid of any debris they’ve collected.

They will then use a small mirror to check the inside of your mouth for signs of gum disease, tooth decay or other oral issues. Depending on your risk factors, the dentist might recommend more frequent cleanings to reduce your likelihood of developing these problems in the future.

If your hygienist finds any issues, they will alert the dentist before continuing with the cleaning. For example, if they find that your gum tissues are red and swollen, this is a sign of gingivitis or periodontitis, which can cause bleeding gums and loose teeth if untreated.

Finally, your hygienist will polish your teeth with a professional electric toothbrush and gritty toothpaste. This will remove any remaining plaque and tartar, as well as surface stains from your teeth. This can make your teeth look brighter and whiter, which can enhance your smile.

Tooth sensitivity can occur during the tooth polishing process. The dental hygienist will try to minimize any discomfort, but some people might feel it. If this occurs, you can take an over-the-counter pain reliever like acetaminophen or naproxen to manage the pain. This should only last a short while. A dental cleaning can be uncomfortable if you have sensitive or inflamed gum tissue, but the hygienist will be careful to use proper techniques to avoid irritation.

Your Hygienist will Floss

Flossing is one of the most important parts of your routine dental cleaning. It allows your hygienist to remove any plaque or food debris between your teeth, which is difficult to reach with a toothbrush alone. This step is also an opportunity for your hygienist to look for any signs of gingivitis or other oral health issues. If you meet the doctor who could help you alleviate the pain in your teeth and help you smile again confidently, then you made the right choice!

To floss, your hygienist will squirt water into your mouth and ask you to swish around. They will then use suction to remove the water from your mouth and clean the area around the teeth.

When your hygienist is flossing, they will be looking for any areas of plaque that are missed when you floss at home. This includes areas between your teeth and around the gum line, which can lead to gum disease if not properly flossed. Your hygienist will also be checking to see if your gums are bleeding during this process, which is a sign of gingivitis.

If your hygienist finds any areas of concern, they will bring them to the attention of the dentist and let you know. Your dentist may decide to do further examinations at this time, which could include x-rays of your teeth and mouth.

Regular dental cleanings can significantly reduce the risk of tooth decay, gum disease and other oral health problems. By scheduling routine cleanings at least twice per year, you can maintain a healthy smile that will last a lifetime. If you’re due for a routine dental cleaning, be sure to schedule your appointment today!

Your Hygienist will Polish Your Teeth

A dental hygienist uses a rubber cup filled with polishing paste (also called prophy paste) to scrub the surface of your teeth. There are different polishing pastes available with varying levels of grit to remove surface stains and leave your teeth looking shiny and smooth. Coarse and medium grit pastes are more effective at removing stains from the surface of your teeth than fine polishing pastes, which can microscopically scratch and roughen up your tooth enamel, making it easier for stains to develop later on.

The scrubbing action of the toothbrush and polishing paste will help loosen the plaque and tartar stuck on your teeth. As they scrape away the built-up debris, your hygienist will check your gum line for any signs of gingivitis. If necessary, your hygienist can apply a prescription strength mouthwash to help treat any gum disease symptoms.

After scrubbing and polishing your teeth, your hygienist will floss between your teeth. Flossing is an important part of your dental hygiene routine to help prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Hygienists can also help you floss correctly, so ask them for tips if you struggle with the technique.

To finish off your cleaning, your hygienist will give you a fluoride treatment. This is a mineral that helps prevent cavities and strengthen your teeth. Your hygienist may have you rinse with a fluoridated mouthwash or paint a fluoride gel or varnish onto the surface of your teeth. This last step typically takes a few minutes.

Your Hygienist will Perform an Oral Cancer Screening

In addition to removing plaque and tartar, dental cleanings are also important for detecting signs of oral cancer. A routine oral cancer screening, which is also called a mouth exam, is a quick and painless process. It involves your dentist or dental hygienist carefully inspecting the inside of your mouth and any connected tissues, such as your throat, sinuses, larynx (voice box) and pharynx. Your dental professional will look for lumps, sores, discoloration and other abnormalities that could be signs of cancer.

They will use light and their own sense of touch to examine the soft tissues in your mouth, such as the tongue, gums, cheeks, lips, throat and jaws. If you have dentures or other removable dental appliances, you will need to take them out so they can get a good look at all areas of your mouth.

An oral cancer screening can be a lifesaver, as early detection is key for treatment success. In fact, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation, more than 53,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year alone, and almost half of those cases are found at a late stage.

Routine oral cancer screenings are an essential part of every dental cleaning appointment. The combination of a visual and tactile inspection helps ensure that your dental professional can find any abnormalities before they become serious problems. Fortunately, most oral cancers are painless in the early stages, so it’s very important to come in for your dental cleaning appointments on a regular basis. And if you have any questions about your dental health or habits, your dental professional will be happy to answer them! They can even help you prevent bad breath by removing the hardened plaque and tartar that can cause it.