During your recommended dental visits twice yearly, your dentist will check your teeth and gums for any problems that need to be treated. Your check-up will include teeth cleaning by your dentist or dental hygienist. What should this teeth cleaning involve and do you even need to get it done?
Why You Should Have Your Teeth Cleaned Professionally
Saliva constantly circulates around your mouth. It contains calcium and other substances that help strengthen and protect your teeth. But it can also create calcium deposits on your teeth, which may be tooth colored, brown or black. The build-up over time, called calculus or tartar, provides the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive right next to your gums.
Especially when tartar is tooth colored and not visible to you, your mouth may be harboring harmful bacteria. With specialized training and tools, your dentist or dental hygienist will clean your teeth to remove this plaque and tartar, leaving them smooth so that bacteria cannot stick to them.
Along with the Academy of General Dentistry, The Happy Tooth recommends getting your teeth cleaned professionally twice a year, in addition to your daily brushing and flossing. After all, maintaining a healthier mouth is key to maintaining a healthy body.
What Should a Professional Teeth Cleaning Involve?
Also called prophylaxis, a professional teeth cleaning typically includes:
- Removing tartar and plaque using specialized tools
- Applying fluoride (depending on your provider; The Happy Tooth does!)
Usually a dental hygienist will clean your teeth before your dentist performs the rest of your check-up.
First, your teeth will be flossed. Then several tools will be used to clean your teeth.
- An ultrasonic instrument knocks larger pieces of tartar loose using tickling vibrations and a cooling mist of water as it is moved around your teeth by the hygienist.
- The hygienist will use “scalers” and “curettes” to gently scrape small tartar deposits off your teeth. These tools are curved, pointed and sharp but when used correctly, should not hurt. Usually they are metal, but plastic versions of these tools need to be used on dental implants to avoid damaging them.
- Next a slow speed hand piece with a soft rubber cup on the end that spins is used to polish your teeth. The hygienist will “load” the cup with prophylaxis paste (you get to choose the flavor) and then run the tool over the fronts and backs of all your teeth make them shiny and smooth.
- If your provider applies fluoride, like The Happy Tooth, you will wear flexible foam trays filled with fluoride foam or gel over your teeth for just 30 seconds. Then you will spit out as much as possible. The fluoride helps strengthen your teeth after the acids from bacteria in tartar and plaque have weakened the surfaces. If you receive this fluoride treatment, you will be advised not to eat or drink for 30 minutes afterwards.
Depending on how much plaque or tartar build-up you have, a dental cleaning should take 30 to 60 minutes. When done right, having your teeth cleaned professionally should not hurt. At The Happy Tooth, providing you with a pain-free experience is our focus! You may feel tickling vibrations, cool mist and light pressure from gentle scraping. But you should not feel discomfort or pain.
If you do, your dentist or dental hygienist may be too rough. Or in some cases, if you have exposed dentin or sore gum tissues, you may encounter discomfort. Kindly let your dentist know so she can be gentler and look for other issues that may need to be addressed.
If you haven’t had your teeth cleaned in the past 6 months, call your dental provider today. Most dental insurance covers two teeth cleanings per year.