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Understanding The Tooth Cleaning Procedure

Woman with clean teeth

Having your teeth cleaned is a standard part of your regular dental visit. In spite of this, you may not understand the individual steps involved in the process. The results you experience are evident when you run your tongue over your newly smooth teeth. Getting their teeth cleaned is an experience not everyone enjoys, and some may avoid going to the dentist altogether. Below we’ve assembled a guide to help patients understand what to expect during their cleaning. The whole process takes 30-60 minutes and is largely painless if performed regularly. Managing your expectations can help ease the worries of those who avoid dental care.


Understanding The Steps of The Tooth Cleaning Procedure

The specifics of the procedure vary from office to office but follow largely similar guidelines. In most cases, your dental cleaning will be performed by a dental hygienist. In some cases, your dentist may perform the procedure.


Steps to expect during the cleaning procedure include:

  • Teeth and gum examination – It all starts with a thorough examination of your teeth and gums. During this step, your hygienist is looking for potential problems, including dark spots on the teeth. Plaque, tartar, and inflamed gums are also checked for. This aids the hygienist in knowing what to focus on while cleaning. If serious concerns are identified, the dentist may be called for a deeper assessment.
  • Scaling – The first step of the process is known as scaling. This step removes the tartar and plaque that have built upon the surface of your teeth. The focus tends to be on the space between the teeth and on the gum line. When possible, an ultrasonic scaler will be used, but a manual scaler may be necessary for severe buildup. The ultrasonic scaler feels like a gentle vibration of the teeth. The manual scaler is a painless scraping on the teeth.
  • Polishing and Flossing – The next step in cleaning your teeth involves the use of an electric polisher. The tip of the polisher has a rubber cup known as a prophy cup and is used to hold the gritty paste that will be used to polish your teeth. A gentle grinding sensation is felt on the teeth during this stage. The hygienist will also floss your teeth during this stage to remove any remaining paste and plaque.
  • Fluoride – Fluoride treatments are a common part of the dental cleaning process. There are several flavors of gel to make the experience more pleasant. The gel is placed in a mouthpiece that is then placed over your teeth. This stays in place for a minute before being removed.

Overall the experience of having your teeth cleaned is a painless experience. When long periods have passed between dental cleanings and gingivitis has developed, some discomfort might be present. The hygienist will have to do a deep cleaning beneath the gum line. In general, this is only mildly uncomfortable, requiring no anesthesia.

A Final Not On Dental Cleanings

Some patients may feel a little discomfort during the procedure, but it isn’t a painful process. However, some may feel the process is invasive or experience anxiety in anticipation of it. In some cases sedation, dentistry may be available to help these feelings. Most important is to ensure that between cleanings, you maintain a consistent dental hygiene practice to avoid deeper cleanings being needed.


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