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Routine teeth cleaning appointments are a vital part of a complete dental hygiene routine. Although, many people think that they can skip these visits with the dental hygienist if they take great care of their teeth at home. But, to take the best care of your teeth, this is not actually the proper thinking. 

It’s important to understand that an appointment for a dental cleaning at your dentist’s office isn’t an indication that your home oral care is inadequate in any way. A dental hygienist can provide a level of teeth cleaning that is simply not possible at home.

So, to give you a better understanding of this important puzzle piece of keeping your teeth as clean as possible, we’ve broken down everything you need to know about teeth cleaning.


Why Regular Teeth Cleaning Visits at the Dentist are So Important

The answer to this question focuses on your gum health as well as the tartar and plaque that can build up on your teeth, even though you may regularly brush and floss.

A dental hygienist’s only focus is ensuring your teeth and gums are as clean as possible. They are professionally trained to remove tartar and plaque as well as monitor the health of your gums (and help improve that when needed). As we mentioned above, the hygienist can perform a deeper cleaning than your teeth get at home, largely due to the special tools and techniques that they use.

The goals (and results) of regular professional teeth cleaning are:

  • Preventing cavities.
  • Maintaining and promoting the best oral health.
  • Preventing tartar buildup on your teeth.
  • Preventing periodontal disease.
  • Removing surface stains.

A teeth cleaning also provides the dentist an opportunity to do a quick checkup of your oral health. Things can be treated much more easily when they are caught early. So, after the hygienist is done with your cleaning, your dentist will examine your mouth to check for issues such as gum disease, cavities, or indicators of oral cancer.

The American Dental Association recommends having a teeth cleaning done once every 6 months. The good thing is that, in most cases, dental insurance covers these cleanings if you receive them 6 months apart.


Teeth Cleaning Process: What Happens During the Visit?

Before the actual cleaning starts, your teeth cleaning appointment will begin with the dental hygienist performing a physical exam of your mouth. They’ll use a small mirror to check your teeth and gums for any problems and/or inflammation.

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After this is complete, the hygienist will start cleaning your teeth. This dental cleaning process will involve several techniques, depending on the condition of your teeth and gums. These include:

Tooth Scaling

During this step, the hygienist uses a hand tool called a “scaler” to remove the destructive plaque and tartar that naturally accumulates along and just below your gum line and between your teeth. 

The scaler does create a scraping sound as it’s used on your teeth and the more tartar build-up there is, the more scraping will be needed. A variety of ultrasonic instruments that use vibration will also be used to gently loosen large pieces of tartar. The debris will be sprayed away with water as it is loosened and a small suction used to clear it all out of your mouth.


Root Planing (If Needed)

Root planing, sometimes also referred to as deep cleaning, is an even deeper scaling of the tooth’s root surface to remove severe tartar deposits and smooth out rough areas. During this technique, a tool is used to gently push your gum tissue aside and expose the surface of the root. Then, the scaling tools are used to clean the surface of the root. A smooth root surface will help prevent bacteria, plaque, and tartar from building up below the gum line.

Depending on the patient, planing is sometimes recommended to prevent infection, which often also requires the application of medicine to the root area. A follow-up visit is usually also scheduled after root planing. Remember, this teeth cleaning technique is often not needed if you are consistently maintaining a good at-home oral hygiene routine.

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Flossing and Brushing

After the scaling and your teeth are plaque and tartar-free, the dental hygienist will then floss your teeth. Even though you may be flossing regularly at home, the hygienist can get deep between your teeth and can also identify any potential trouble spots where your gums may be bleeding. Then, the hygienist will use a professional, high-powered electric brush to brush your teeth. This removes any tartar that may be left behind from the scaling.


Tooth Polishing 

The hygienist will use a polishing hand tool with a soft rubber tip to smooth and shine the surface of your teeth.


Fluoride Treatment

In many cases, the last step of a teeth cleaning appointment is a fluoride treatment. This protective treatment helps fight against cavities until you come in for your next cleaning. This fluoride is often applied to your teeth in the form of either a foamy gel or sticky paste and is left on for roughly one minute. It’s important to wait a little while after your fluoride treatment before you eat or drink anything. The hygienist will tell you exactly how long.


How Long Does a Teeth Cleaning Take? 

To answer this common question about dental cleanings, in general, it will take about 30 minutes if your at-home oral hygiene routine is good. But, if there is a significant amount of tartar buildup or a root planing/deep cleaning is being done then the teeth cleaning can take an hour or more.


Deep Cleaning Versus a Regular Teeth Cleaning 

There are several specific differences between the two but to put it simply, a deep cleaning (root planing/debridement) is just a more extensive teeth cleaning compared to a “regular” cleaning.

A regular teeth cleaning supplements your home oral hygiene regimen to prevent cavities and gum problems. But, if tartar buildup has become excessive and gum pockets are developing, a deep cleaning may be necessary to correct these things. As we mentioned above, during a deep cleaning, the hygienist will use a special tool to clean deep into the pockets around each tooth and along the root to completely remove plaque and tartar. Root planing is only performed as part of a deep cleaning and is not part of a regular cleaning.

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Deep teeth cleaning can sometimes be demanding and require more than one appointment. The cleaning process is more extensive and the teeth and gums need to be monitored to ensure they are not being too aggravated all at once.

Yes, a deep cleaning/root planing indeed tends to be more uncomfortable compared to a regular cleaning. If you have gum sensitivity, the dentist may administer local anesthesia to make the cleaning process more comfortable. The dentist may also recommend the use of a desensitizing paste to help provide sensitivity relief. But if left untreated, the buildup of tartar and plaque will continue and the pockets in your gums will grow larger, risking both tooth and bone loss.


Teeth Cleanings are an Essential Part of Good Oral Health Care

As you can see, regular teeth cleaning is absolutely something that should be included in your routine oral health care. It is important to have a dentist and dental hygienist that you trust and are comfortable with for your cleanings. 

Our compassionate team here at Radomile Family Dental Care in Drexel Hill has the training and experience to meet all of your dental healthcare needs. We can help keep your teeth and gums in the best possible condition and ensure you have the confident smile that you deserve.

Contact us today to schedule your next teeth cleaning appointment!