What Does Dental Cleaning Entail?


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[1]Many people dread teeth cleanings. Between the prodding, strange noises, and occasional jaw discomfort, it’s easy to understand their apprehension. But for most, a teeth cleaning is simple and painless.

Knowing exactly what is going on during the process can help ease your stress and allow you to better enjoy the minty-fresh results.

[2]Pretty much everyone knows how important it is to have routine dental cleanings to help prevent both cavities and gum disease. But what many people don’t know is that there are actually two types of cleanings — the routine cleaning you have (or should have) every six months and a much deeper cleaning that’s usually reserved for people with moderate to advanced gum disease. Even if you haven’t heard of a deep dental cleaning before, you might have heard it called by its “other” name — root planing and scaling. That’s a little more descriptive, but it still doesn’t describe what a deep cleaning does, or when and why it’s performed. Here’s how to tell the difference between the two types of cleaning and how to know which one you’re going to need.

Dental Cleanings: What They Are And How They’re Done

Both routine and deep dental cleanings have one primary goal: To get rid of plaque and tartar deposits that can cause gum disease and other oral health problems. But beyond that, the two procedures are a lot different.

[3]Who Should Undergo And Expected Results

All individuals are advised to undergo professional teeth cleaning at least once every six months for preventative maintenance. If the patient has existing oral problems or disorders, the cleaning should be done more frequently.

Also known as prophylaxis, the procedure removes mineralized plaque or tartar deposits on the teeth surface to prevent the dental problems they can cause when left undisturbed. These deposits can easily accumulate even when a person carefully and regularly brushes or flosses his teeth. Routine brushing may slow down the accumulation of plaque but cannot prevent it completely. The word prophylaxis comes from a Greek word that means “to prevent beforehand.”

Plaque is a soft, sticky film that is infested with bacteria. The long-term accumulation of plaque can easily lead to cavities and, eventually, to tooth decay. Tartar, on the other hand, are hard calcium deposits that build up over time in the same manner that limescale builds up on a kettle or water pipe. In most cases, it has the same color as the teeth, making it hard to notice for some people. In some cases, however, it has a brown or black color. If tartar is not removed, the teeth condition becomes ripe for the growth of bacteria. Through professional dental cleaning, the surface of the tooth is left clean and smooth so bacteria will have a hard time sticking to it.

The Goals Of Regularly Having Teeth Professionally Cleaned Are To:

  • Prevent cavities
  • Maintain good oral health
  • Prevent periodontal disease
  • Prevent too much tartar from building up
  • Remove surface stains

How Does The Procedure Work?

Professional dental cleaning can be performed either by a dentist or a dental hygienist. The procedure involves the use of three cleaning techniques:

Tooth scaling – Scaling is the process of removing bacterial film or buil up substances from tooth surface.

Tooth polishing – Performed after scaling, polishing is the process of making the surface of the teeth smoother.

Debridement – Debridement is used when too much tartar has accumulated and scaling cannot remove them. Using this technique, the dental hygienist will use a variety of dental instruments to carefully loosen the deposits and remove them from the teeth.

Dentists and hygienists usually use the following tools or instruments when performing dental cleaning:

Ultrasonic instruments – These are instruments that use tickling vibrations to gently but effectively loosen up large pieces of tartar. At the same time, it sprays a cool mist of water to wash away the small debris as they come loose. Once the larger pieces have been removed, dentists usually change from ultrasonic instruments to finer hand tools.

Scalers or curettes – These are smaller hand tools that dentists use to manually remove smaller pieces of deposits. They are very effective in scraping off tartar and plaque.

Polisher – This is a hand tool with a soft rubber tip that slowly moves to polish the tooth surface.

Fluoride – Dentists may also apply some fluoride during a teeth cleaning. Available in foam or gel, fluoride helps to strengthen the teeth to compensate for the negative effects that plaque and tartar had on them. If fluoride is applied, the patient will be advised not to eat, drink, or rinse the mouth for at least 30 minutes after application.

Possible Complications And Risks

The process of a professional teeth cleaning does not cause pain, and it is generally comfortable, except for the length of time the patient has to sit with his mouth open. However, the process can be more uncomfortable for those who have plaque and tartar that are harder to remove. If hardened tartar has been removed, subsequent cleanings will take less time.

However, dental cleaning has to be done in a meticulous and careful manner. Thus, it is also important to find a dentist and dental hygienist that can be trusted and has all the necessary training and certification to practice. If the cleaning is done in an overly vigorous manner or it is incorrectly performed, there is a risk of causing injury to the gums, making the gums more vulnerable to infection. Injured gums also cause soreness, gingivitis (swelling and inflammation), and bleeding gums. There is also a risk of damaging the tooth enamel.


Thank you for reading this article, and check back frequently for other dental health articles. Should you have any questions, please contact Apple Tree Dental today!

Article compiled by Apple Tree Dental

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