The cleaning, for some people, can be a scary part of a patient’s dental visit. However, by understanding it a little bit better, you may find that there isn’t anything to be concerned about and also realize the importance of getting regular cleanings.
A tooth cleaning is broken down by dental hygienists into six different parts. We’ll discuss each and give a brief description of what they include.
A Physical Exam – Before your hygienist starts to do anything to your teeth, they conduct a physical exam. They use a small mirror to look for any immediate issues. This includes gingivitis, significant plaque buildup, and noticeable tooth loss or damage.
Remove Tartar and Plaque – Your hygienist will then use the small mirror and a scraper tool andultrasonic instrument (scalers) in order to remove the buildups of tartar and plaque. You’ll generally hear the scraping sound, but this is not an uncomfortable process. The more accumulation that is on your teeth, the longer this process may take.
Gritty Toothpaste Cleaning – In a professional medical setting, a gritty toothpaste is safe to use twice a year. If you try to do the same procedure at home though, you risk damaging the enamel of your teeth. Your hygienist will use a special electrical toothbrush and professional cleaning toothpaste in order to clean and polish your teeth.
Expert Flossing – As your hygienist completes your flossing, they are looking for any spots that may be susceptible to bleeding on the gums and making sure to remove any of the buildups that were left behind from brushing.
Rinse – Now that your teeth have been cleaned and polished and most of the debris has been manually removed, the rinse helps to remove all the fine plaque or buildup that didn’t come out before. The rinse helps to ensure that your mouth is as clean as possible.
Fluoride Treatment – Fluoride treatments help to add a protective layer to your teeth to continue to protect them and keep them cavity-free. Fluoride also helps to reduce sensitivity, especially in people with recession of the gums. At our office we recommend Fluoride treatments for every patient, at every cleaning.
Another part of your cleaning appointment may be taking X-rays. X-rays use a low level of radiation to capture images of the inside of your teeth.
These images are helpful in determining any problems that aren’t visible to the naked eye. X-rays can aid your dentist in diagnosing cavities, tooth decay, bone loss, or impacted teeth.
X-rays are typically performed at your first appointment and at regular intervals that will be determined for you specifically. Some factors that influence the frequency of imaging include:
Current oral health
History of gum disease and cavities
Symptoms you are experiencing
We try to minimize x-rays to our patients, especially in children, but there is always a cost/benefit to be weighed. While we do everything we can to reduce our patient's overall exposures, there are many problems that can worsen to the point of pain or even tooth loss if you wait until they are seen visually. Our goal is always to prevent problems before they happen, not just react when they cause you problems.