Even after years of dental visits, you may not know exactly what happens when you sit in that reclining chair. You understand that the dental hygienist cleans your teeth and the dentist inspects your mouth for the development of cavities and gingivitis, but do you know what each step of the process entails? Learning what happens during a teeth cleaning can satisfy your long-standing curiosity and help you prepare for future dental appointments. Plus, if you’re one of those people who dread visiting the dentist, gaining a firm understanding of what happens during a teeth cleaning may help you calm your nerves.
What Happens During a Teeth Cleaning?
Few people look forward to visiting their dentist, but they recognize that teeth cleanings can prevent severe oral issues and nip serious problems in the bud. For example, bi-yearly dental appointments can reduce your risk of developing gum disease, remove plaque and tartar buildup, and prevent cavities from worsening. Although the cleaning process varies from dentist to dentist, you can generally expect the following steps to occur during your next teeth cleaning:
An Initial Inspection
To begin, a dental hygienist or dentist will typically examine your teeth and gums. During this brief inspection, they may use a mirror to get a better look at all the nooks and crannies of your mouth. They will check your mouth for signs of trouble, like inflamed gums (gingivitis) and dark spots on the teeth (potential cavities). If a hygienist performs this step, they may call in the dentist if they notice anything concerning or unusual. In addition, before the cleaning begins, your hygienist will typically ask if you have any concerns regarding your teeth or gums. If you have any questions about what happens during a teeth cleaning, feel free to ask them now.
During most dental check-ups, your dentist will take digital x-rays of your teeth and mouth. This quick, safe process alerts the dentist to numerous oral issues, including all of the following:
- Bone loss
- Oral abnormalities
- Tooth decay
- Tumors and cysts
- Gum disease
- Movement of teeth
Dental x-rays are especially important for new patients, as they allow the dentist to quickly assess the current state of your teeth and gums before moving forward.
Removal of Plaque and Tartar
Next, the hygienist will remove the plaque and tartar around your gum line and between your teeth using a scaler. Plaque is the bacteria that builds up in your mouth in and around your teeth. It can cause cavities and gum disease, and when it is not removed, it will eventually turn into tartar. Although you can remove plaque yourself through brushing and flossing, a dental professional must remove tartar.
During this step, you may hear scraping noises – this is totally normal. The time span of tartar removal depends on the amount of tartar built up on the teeth. In addition, if you have gingivitis (about 80% of people do), your gums may bleed following tartar removal. Your mouth may also feel a bit sore afterward.
After removing plaque and tartar, your hygienist will remove any remaining stains. However, you may not realize that this is what’s happening because they will use a very unique brush and special toothpaste. First, you may be asked which flavor of toothpaste you prefer. Then, the hygienist will apply the gritty toothpaste to a power toothbrush to thoroughly clean the teeth. This process may be loud due to the use of the powerful electric toothbrush. The gritty toothpaste will also polish the teeth, leaving them smooth and shiny.
You can probably guess what comes next: flossing! Just as you would floss your teeth at home, the hygienist will guide a length of floss between neighboring teeth to remove plaque. During this step, the hygienist may ask about your flossing habits and recommend certain techniques. They may also point out areas of concern, so that you will pay more attention to them in the future.
Your hygienist may perform a fluoride treatment. This protects your teeth against cavities until you next return to the dentist’s office for a cleaning or check-up. During the treatment, the hygienist may insert a mouthpiece that fits over your teeth. The mouthpiece will be filled with a fluoride foam or gel, and it will remain in your mouth for about a minute. Afterward, you will rinse out the excess fluoride with water.
Please note that some dentists only use professional fluoride treatments on those with a moderate-to-severe risk of developing tooth decay. Since fluoride is found in drinking water, toothpastes, and mouthwashes, many people don’t need an additional fluoride treatment at the dentist’s office.
Once your teeth have been cleaned, your dentist may perform a final examination. They will evaluate your teeth for gum disease, check for grinding issues, and examine the alignment of your teeth. After viewing your digital x-rays, they will attend to any concerns presented by the x-rays. Sometimes the dentist will check the depth of your gingival pockets to learn the state of your gums. In addition, the dentist will evaluate any dental restorations (bridges, fillings, etc.) and check for oral cancer. Finally, if you have any questions or concerns, your dentist will likely address them at this stage of the process.
Now that you know what happens during a teeth cleaning, are you ready to schedule your next appointment? If you’re looking for an experienced, reliable, and friendly dentist in or near Springfield, Missouri, contact Wilkinson Dental. Dr. Wilkinson and his team will give you the personalized treatment you deserve using state-of-the-art technology. Schedule your first appointment today by calling 417-708-0556 or requesting an appointment online. We look forward to hearing from you!