Dental cleanings are an important element in maintaining optimal oral health to prevent a number of dental problems. Many people don’t obtain the recommended treatment needed as they should simply due to fear or anxiety about visiting the dentist. Routine teeth cleanings are necessary to achieve good oral health and can prevent further damage to teeth and gums by checking for and correcting problems.
What is a Dental Cleaning?
A dental cleaning is an exam of the teeth and gums performed by a dentist that includes cleaning, polishing, and treatment for common problems. Hard deposits known as tartar can accumulate on the teeth over time that can’t be removed simply brushing at home. It is estimated that up to 80% of Americans experience some form of gum disease as a result of buildup from plaque and tarter on the teeth. A teeth cleaning visit every 6 months helps to address these problems and reduce your risk of developing other health conditions.
Preparing for a Cleaning
Some people may experience pain or discomfort during the cleaning if they have gum disease or other dental issue that causes sensitivity. If you experience tooth sensitivity when you brush or floss you may ask the dental assistant or dentist for a general anesthetic to alleviate any discomfort. You might also consider taking an Ibuprofen (consult with your physician first) tablet before and after your visit to help with pain and inflammation that you may experience from the cleaning.
Due to the nature of a dental cleaning the bacteria in the mouth can become exposed and enter into the bloodstream. For individuals with certain medical conditions that affect the immune system, it may be advised to take a prescribed antibiotic prior to the appointment. This helps ward off infection that can occur from exposure to the bacteria
How is the Cleaning Procedure Performed?
During a dental cleaning, the dentist will loosen plaque and tarter by using an ultrasonic cleaner and water sprayer to clean the teeth. The next step in removing harder deposits of build up on teeth is done using a special tool called a hand scraper that removes the build up at and below the gum line. This cleaning procedure is called scaling the teeth. After the teeth are scaled they the dental hygienist will use a slightly abrasive paste to polish the teeth. The hygienist may use an electric brush to polish the teeth with that will leave your teeth feeling nice and smooth once it’s finished.
Once polished, the dentist or dental hygienist will floss in between each tooth. After the hygienist flosses he/she may also provide you with a fluoride rinse which you will be advised to swish vigorously for approximately 30 seconds then spit into the sink. You should not eat or drink anything for 30 minutes after rinsing with a fluoride rinse. This fluoride rinse will help in the prevention of tooth decay. In children, sealants may also be applied during a cleaning to permanent teeth to prevent cavities. For those with dentures, the dentist may adjust them as needed to ensure proper fit and bite.
A deeper cleaning, referred to as Debridement, may be recommended if you have gum-disease or a periodontal disease. This is typically done at a separate visit as it is more involved and requires more time to remove heavy buildup. A ebridement is often scheduled in patients that have gone more than a year since their last dental cleaning and have a great deal of tartar build up.
The dentist or dental hygienist will provide additional instructions to reinforce positive oral hygiene habits including proper brushing and flossing recommendations. Additional services may be provided upon request at the cleaning visit such as whitening
In addition to recommendations on practicing oral hygiene, you may also receive valuable nutrition information and healthy eating habits for maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Certain foods and beverages can contribute to tooth decay and oral health problems; therefore it’s advised for those at greater risk of developing these conditions to avoid those foods.
Follow up on your dental cleaning at home with proper oral hygiene practices as directed by your dentist. Be sure to also follow up on treatment services that may be necessary to help maintain a healthy smile. Be sure to ask the dentist about any concerns you have regarding your teeth or oral health.