Most dentists recommend a basic cleaning appointment with a hygienist every six months. This appointment, which may also be called a six-month cleaning or prophylaxis, is an essential part of a healthy dental care routine. Regular cleanings help ensure long-lasting oral health and in conjunction with proper home care can help prevent periodontal disease
Dental cleanings are routine procedures that take between 30 and 60 minutes. If your appointment is part of a yearly check-up, your dentist may also take x-rays to check for cavities.
A professional hygienist’s cleaning will leave any smile with that “tooth-paste-commercial” feeling. After deposits, stains and bacterial build-up are gently removed from your teeth, a hygienist will polish your teeth to provide you with that squeaky-clean smile.
If there are large amounts of plaque and tartar on your teeth it is not always possible for the dentist to perform a comprehensive oral examination or standard cleaning and a full mouth debridement may be suggested. A full mouth debridement removes built-up plaque and calculus so the dentist can perform a comprehensive oral evaluation.
What to Expect During a Teeth Cleaning
- Medical history review: Tell the hygienist of any changes in your health, medications or diet since your last cleaning, these may impact your treatment and oral health. If you have a heart condition or have undergone heart surgery, please let your dentist know prior to the day of your scheduled cleaning. People with heart problems or defects are at higher risk of developing a condition called endocarditis, which can seriously affect the heart. Unless otherwise instructed a dose of antibiotics may be required an hour before your scheduled appointment. Talk to your dentist about any concerns you may have.
- Conversation: Tell your hygienist of any concerns you may have regarding your teeth, mouth, and overall oral health. Your dentist or hygienist may ask about your at-home dental care routine, brushing, and flossing habits.
- Gum tissue check: The hygienist will complete a visual gum tissue check inspecting for any lesions, discoloration, lumps, and receding gum lines. Additionally, they will evaluate your gums for any signs of developing or reoccurring gum pocketing (periodontal disease).
- Removal of plaque, tartar, and stains: The hygienist will clean your teeth, removing any plaque and tartar build-up. A scaler (SCAY-ler) is a common tool used to remove plaque and tartar. A scaler looks a bit like a tiny hook and is used to remove hard plaque build-up. Dental cleanings often include a device that uses water to flush and irrigate around the teeth and gums. In some cases, an antibacterial mouthwash may be used for this purpose.
- Polishing and flossing: The hygienist will polish and floss each tooth. A tooth polisher typically has many different size heads to get to hard to reach places. This tool buffs, polishes, and eliminates tiny pieces of plaque left on the teeth.
- Home care instructions: Your dental hygienist will review instructions for any additional care that may be needed for your home oral care routine.
Your cleaning visit may also include:
- Oral cancer screening: Depending on your health, age, and other risk factors, your dentist or hygienist may recommend an oral cancer screening. This screening is quick – less than a minute, painless, and enables clinicians to detect any signs of oral cancer, even at its earliest stage when it may not be visible yet.
- Fluoride treatment: You hygienist may also suggest a fluoride treatment during your visit. Fluoride is a great way to strengthen and protect your teeth. This can be applied at any appointment, is quick, and absolutely painless.
- Sealants: Dental sealants are often used to protect hard to clean areas of your teeth from cavities. Sealants are a thin protective coating painted on the grooves of the chewing surface of the back teeth. This treatment may even stop the early stages of decay from turning into a cavity.