What Is A Professional Teeth Cleaning?
During professional teeth cleanings, your dentist or dental hygienist uses special tools to remove plaque and tartar from your teeth, deep-brush your teeth, and apply a fluoride treatment to your teeth. This type of cleaning isn’t possible to achieve with at-home hygiene practices.
A professional cleaning of your teeth is essential to prevent cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease (periodontitis).
What Types of Dental Cleanings Are There?
There are four types of dental cleanings:
- Prophylaxis Dental Cleaning. The word prophylaxis means “to prevent disease.” Therefore, prophylaxis dental cleanings are used to clean healthy teeth in order to prevent them from becoming affected by tooth decay or gum disease. Prophylaxis cleanings remove plaque and tartar from teeth using a dental scaler or water stream. Most dental patients only require a prophylaxis cleaning, especially if they have kept up on daily dental hygiene and semi-annual dental appointments.
- Scaling and Root Planing Cleaning. Scaling and root planing cleanings, also known as deep cleanings, are used for both teeth and gum pockets in order to treat gingivitis (inflamed gums) and periodontitis (gum disease). Scaling is the process that removes plaque and tartar from the tooth’s surface and in the gum pockets below the gum line. This removes bacteria and helps to reduce gum inflammation. Root planing is the process of smoothing the tooth roots, which helps the gums reattach to teeth and eliminate gum pockets.
- Periodontal Maintenance Cleaning. Whereas prophylaxis dental cleaning is done as preventative care, periodontal maintenance takes care of existing problems with your oral health. They, therefore, need to be scheduled more frequently. Periodontal maintenance cleanings utilize scaling and root planing to remove plaque and tartar from teeth and gum pockets and to smooth out the tooth roots in order to treat existing gum disease.
- Gross Debridement Cleaning. Gross debridement cleanings are the most heavy-duty of teeth cleanings, designed to clean teeth covered with copious amounts of plaque and tartar. Patients who require gross debridement generally struggle to maintain their oral hygiene and often haven’t visited their dentist for a significant amount of time. Since tartar is especially hard, an electrical tool is used to loosen tartar during gross debridement cleanings. Once the excess plaque and tartar have been removed, a prophylaxis cleaning is performed to further clean the teeth.
What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Professional Teeth Cleaning?
There is virtually no downside to having your teeth professionally cleaned. Cleanings are as minimally invasive as dental treatments can be, requiring no numbing of the mouth and little time in the dentist’s chair. Regular (prophylaxis) teeth cleanings typically take 30-60 minutes to perform. Some patients may dislike the feel or taste of the gritty toothpaste used for the deep brushing phase or the taste of the fluoride treatment, but these phases each last just a few minutes.
There are significant advantages to having your teeth professionally cleaned on a regular basis:
- Plaque and tartar removal. Brushing and flossing at home can’t remove tartar.
- Preventing tooth decay. Tartar causes cavities and tooth decay, which require more invasive (and expensive) dentistry to repair.
- Preventing gum disease. Professional cleanings keep gums healthy, preventing infections which would also require more advanced dental treatments.
What Happens During a Teeth Cleaning?
Professional teeth cleanings typically follow these steps:
- Physical Exam. Most teeth cleanings are performed by a dental hygienist. Before the cleaning process begins, they start with a dental exam, using a small mirror to check around your teeth and gums for any potential concerns.
- Removal of plaque and tartar. The dental hygienist uses a scaler to get rid of plaque and tartar around your gum line, as well as between your teeth. The more tartar there is on your teeth, the more time your hygienist will need to scrape a particular spot.
- Gritty toothpaste cleaning. The hygienist then brushes your teeth with a high-powered electric brush and gritty toothpaste. This is a great way to give your teeth a deep cleaning and remove any tartar left behind from the scaler.
- Expert flossing. Whether you floss regularly at home or not, nothing beats an expert flossing session. Your dental hygienist can get deep between your teeth and locate any potential trouble spots where you might bleed at the gums.
- Rinsing. Next, you’ll rinse out your mouth to get rid of any debris. Your dental hygienist may give you a rinse that contains liquid fluoride.
- Applying fluoride treatment. The last step of the cleaning process is a fluoride treatment. This treatment is used as a protectant for your teeth to help fight against cavities for several months. Your dental hygienist will place a foamy gel or a sticky paste containing fluoride on your teeth for one minute. After removing the gel or paste, your dentist will inform you as to when you can next eat or drink (typically within 30 minutes.)
- Other potential steps. X-rays are normally done once a year. Depending on what your dentist or dental hygienist observes in your mouth, they might do other exams during your visit.
Signs That You May Have a Dental Cavity or Tooth Decay
Signs of a dental cavity or tooth decay include:
- Discolored teeth
- Swelling or bleeding gums
- Bad breath
- Pain when biting down or chewing
- Holes or pits in the tooth
Schedule Your Cleaning Today!
If it’s been longer than six months since your last professional teeth cleaning, or if you have signs of a cavity or tooth decay, please contact us today to schedule your next dental exam and professional cleaning. Your teeth will thank you!