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What To Expect During a Teeth Cleaning
A teeth cleaning performed by a dental hygienist or other dental professional is a 30- to 60-minute procedure that is important for keeping the gums and teeth clean. Due to dental anxieties and phobias, many people may fear getting a cleaning or even avoid the process altogether, which can have harmful effects on the teeth. Having a full understanding of what to expect when having teeth cleaned at a dentist's office can help patients have a stress-free experience.
The teeth cleaning procedure
While the exact cleaning procedures used might vary from office to office, most dental hygienists follow a similar routine.
Teeth and gum examination
Before beginning the cleaning process, the hygienist uses a small concave mirror to check the patient’s mouth for any signs of oral problems, such as inflamed gums, plaque and tartar buildup, or dark spots on the teeth. This helps the hygienist know what to focus on during the cleaning. If more serious issues such as cavities or gum disease are found, the hygienist most often informs the dentist for a more thorough examination.
Using a small hooked tool called a scaler, the hygienist removes any plaque and tartar from the surface of the teeth, near the gum line and in between the teeth. Depending on how much buildup is present, either a manual or ultrasonic scaler is used. A manual scaler feels like scraping on the teeth while the ultrasonic scaler uses gentle vibration and water for removing large deposits.
Polishing and flossing
Next, the hygienist polishes the teeth and removes any stains using a handheld electric tool with a rubber prophy cup attached and a gritty toothpaste called prophylaxis paste. Patients can expect to feel a slow grinding motion on the teeth during this step in the process. The hygienist then flosses the patient’s teeth to remove any remaining plaque and paste.
Some dental offices include fluoride treatment in the teeth cleaning process. Often, patients can choose what flavor fluoride gel they like. This gel is then placed inside a mouthpiece that the patient must wear for approximately a minute.
Does a dental cleaning hurt?
While most patients experience minimal pain and discomfort when getting their teeth cleaned, there are several factors that can make the process more painful:
- Dental sensitivity due to inflammation, gum disease or tooth decay
- Long periods of time between cleanings
- Jaw pain due to temporomandibular disorders
Patients should communicate any pain with the hygienist. Often, the hygienist can allow the patient to take a break or try a different method to lessen any pain.
While getting a teeth cleaning can feel invasive and uncomfortable to patients, common dental issues such as gum disease or tooth decay can be much more painful and require even more dental work in the long run. Regular teeth brushing and flossing can help prevent large amounts of plaque and tartar from building on the teeth. However, getting a professional cleaning done twice a year is essential for fully removing any buildup.
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