Introduction to Teeth Cleaning
Routine brushing and flossing are an important part of oral health.
In addition to your daily routine, a regular visit to your dentist is an important part of caring for your mouth and keeping your teeth at their best.
At Willow Pass Dental Care, our professional staff of dentists and hygienists provide you and your family with the care you and your teeth deserve.
While the typical dental hygiene routine generally involves a brush and floss, a professional dental cleaning by a dentist is considerably more involved.
How We Clean Teeth
Willow Pass Dental Care is regarded as one of the leading dentists in Concord, CA.
Dental cleaning is performed by specially-trained hygienists who work under the supervision of Dr. Reza Khazaie, who himself is a highly regarded and well-known Prosthodontist as well as owner of Willow Pass Dental Care.
While Dr. Khazaie will not be performing your dental cleaning directly, he along with other dentists on the team will be a part of your examination to ensure that your dental care and health is in good standing.
If any abnormalities or cause for concern is discovered during the cleaning process, the hygienist will notify Dr. Khazaie or other dentists on the team for an additional review and official diagnosis.
Meet Dr. Reza Khazaie, DDS, Prosthodontist
The content in this teeth cleaning guide is not available anywhere else on the Internet. The content is written and produced by Dr. Reza Khazaie, DDS, Prosthodontist, and founder of Willow Pass Dental Care, the #1 rated Dentist in Concord, California.
Dr. Reza Khazaie is a nationally known prosthodontist who is regarded as the smile expert. In addition, Dr. Khazaie is an expert on the specialized treatment of dental and facial problems that restore missing teeth and jaw structures.
He is a highly trained specialist in dental crowns, dental cosmetics, dental implants such as the All On 4 dental implants, bridges, dentures, implant-supported dentures, porcelain veneers, Ectodermal Dysplasia, TMJ/TMD, and many more dental procedures.
So if you’re looking to learn as much as you can about teeth cleaning, you’ve come to the right place.
How Important Is A Dental Cleaning?
Having your teeth professionally cleaned is not only about keeping your smile white and cavity-free. It also can impact your overall health.
Poor oral hygiene has been associated with many serious health issues. Bone loss, cancers, strokes, and other heart-related conditions have been linked to oral health issues. Brushing and flossing are essential, but regular dental cleanings and check-ups are crucial not only to oral health but overall health as well.
Professional cleanings are essential for the following reasons:
- First, teeth cleanings can prevent gum disease, which is the primary cause of tooth loss.
- During the cleaning, stains are removed, creating a whiter, brighter smile.
- Oral cancer is survivable in about 81% of cases if found early. Oral cancer screening is part of the professional cleaning process.
- There is a link between gum disease and cardiovascular issues. So regular teeth cleanings fight gum disease, thereby reducing your chances of strokes and heart attacks.
- The professional dental cleaning will include a comprehensive oral health exam that can detect other dental issues such as broken teeth, cavities, or other problems that can create oral health problems.
What Happens During A Teeth Cleaning?
Teeth cleanings can help to prevent oral issues, certain health issues and help create a brighter smile.
By committing to a dental cleaning twice a year, you can reduce the risk of developing gum disease, prevent cavities and remove plaque and tartar buildup.
If you have never had a cleaning before, here is what you can expect at a cleaning appointment:
Step 1: Preliminary oral exam
Either the dentist or the dental hygienist will take a look at your teeth and gums. You can expect the use of mirrors to be able to see at all angles, and in some instances, the use of an intraoral camera may be used to ensure every surface is thoroughly examined. Again, this is an excellent opportunity to bring up any issues that you may have been noticing.
Otherwise, the exam consists of checking for troubled areas such as signs of gingivitis or gums that are inflamed and potential cavities.
The dentist will also evaluate symptoms of oral cancer. This may consist of feeling the neck, jaw, and insides of the lips, cheeks, tongue, and roof of your mouth. In addition to the above, You can also expect the following in an oral exam:
- An evaluation of your oral hygiene and overall health.
- Determine your risk of bone disease, and tooth decay, or root decay.
- If you have previous dental restorations such as crowns or onlays, they will check to see if they need to be replaced.
- Evaluate and discuss any bite or jaw-related issues.
- Explain proper brushing and flossing techniques.
In addition, the dentist or hygienist may discuss other health-related topics with you, such as what medications you may be taking. For example, certain medications can harm the mouth, helping to increase the risk of tooth decay.
Also, you will be asked about other health issues that may contribute to an increased risk of oral health issues. For example, those people who have diabetes are at an increased risk of gum disease.
The dentist may discuss next certain lifestyle choices to inform you of risks and benefits. For example, you may discuss topics such as diet, tongue piercings, or tobacco use to make sure you are aware of their effect on your oral health.
Step 2: Obtain digital x-rays
To take the exam to the next level, dental x-rays may be taken. However, they are not necessary at every appointment and will be taken based on your current situation and disease risk.
This step will provide the dentist with images that will help assess the condition of your teeth, gums, and bones that are not visible with a visual exam.
Digital x-rays can help determine the following:
Digital x-rays provide the dentist with the necessary information and oral health starting point to help diagnose, treat and track your oral health.
Step 3: Remove plaque and calculus
After the exam, the hygienist will begin the actual cleaning of the teeth using various tools.
The main focus is to remove the plaque and calculus (tartar) from the teeth surface, between the teeth, and below the gums. Plaque is a bacteria that builds up in the mouth and on the surface of the teeth. Plaque that is not removed will turn into calculus or tartar that is difficult to remove.
Calculus can only be removed by a dental professional.
Depending on the level of cleaning necessary, you can expect the following:
- The dentist or hygienist will use a mirror to see your teeth at every angle and ensure each surface is cleaned thoroughly.
- A probe will be used to check gum health. A probe will take measurements on each tooth to measure the depth of a tooth’s pocket. These measurements will determine how healthy the gums are and whether or not a more thorough cleaning or other treatment may be necessary.
- The dentist or hygienist will use a tool called a scaler to begin removing plaque and calculus from each tooth’s surface. You will hear scraping noises during this step. A common question that is asked during this step is, “Do dental cleanings scratch your teeth?” The answer is no. While this may seem like the case using the scaler to remove calculus is safe for the tooth’s enamel.
- Next, the dentist or hygienist will use a tool called a curette to remove the calculus from under the gums and the base of the tooth.
- The dentist or hygienist will use a tooth polisher with a special polishing paste that has a gritty feel. This will remove surface-level stains and leave the surface of your teeth smooth and bright.
- The hygienist will then do professional flossing between your teeth to remove plaque.
- Finally, a fluoride treatment may be performed. Fluoride treatment helps to protect your teeth from cavities in between dental cleanings. This is done by filling a tray with either a fluoride gel or foam and placing it in your mouth for about a minute.
The final step is to rinse the excess with water.
Fluoride is not done on all patients.
During the entire cleaning process, a suction too will help remove saliva that accumulates in your mouth during each step of the process.
Step 4. Final part of the exam
After the teeth cleaning is completed, the dentist will do a final examination.
Usually, the dentist will consult with the hygienist on any findings that may have come up during the cleaning. This will include any questions that you may have had during the process.
The dentist will examine the x-rays and evaluate the measurements recorded from the gingival pocket probing. The dentist will also go over any other issues related to current dental restorations you may have and any other findings related to the health of your gums, bite, and jaw health.
At this time, depending on the findings, you may be given other treatment recommendations or counseling on how to improve your oral hygiene routine to help improve your overall health.
Also, the dentist will let you know when you should have your next dental cleaning.
Teeth Cleaning After Care
If you had a fluoride treatment as part of your cleaning appointment, you should not eat or drink for at least 30 minutes after the treatment was done. It is also recommended that you do not eat or drink any hot or acidic foods or beverages for the rest of the day following the fluoride treatment. Doing so may reduce the effectiveness of the fluoride treatment.
Otherwise, if you do not have a fluoride treatment, you can eat immediately after a teeth cleaning. A word of caution; however, you may be sensitive directly after your cleaning and may even experience some bleeding. As a result, you may want to avoid anything too hot or too cold.
What Can I Eat After A Dental Cleaning?
If you need to eat right away after your dental cleaning and depending on your level of sensitivity, you may want to stick to soft foods such as soups, hard-boiled eggs, or apple sauce.
If you are feeling tooth sensitivity, you should avoid foods with the following attributes:
- Citrus foods
After a few hours, the sensitivity should subside, and you can go back to a regular eating routine.
Finally, continue to brush and floss according to the directions provided by your dental appointment. This will help prevent the build-up of plaque and tartar on your teeth and may make your future teeth cleaning appointments easier.
What Is A Hygienist?
Dental hygienists focus on treating and preventing oral health diseases.
Their focus is to help patients protect their teeth and gums to ensure optimal oral health and influence the patient’s overall health. They mainly focus on preventive dentistry, such as providing teeth cleanings and fluoride treatments.
Seeing dental hygienists twice a year for dental cleanings can profoundly impact your overall health and well-being.
The dental hygienist is an essential part of your dentists’ team for your dental treatment. These oral health professionals must be licensed by the state they practice.
In addition, they must graduate from a university or college dental hygiene-specific program and pass a national board exam and then a state clinical exam to receive their licensure. Once they have obtained their license, they can identify themselves as Registered Dental Hygienists or use the acronym RDH.
What Does A Hygienist Do At A Teeth Cleaning Procedure?
Expertly trained in preventative dental care, hygienists provide an invaluable service to dental patients. However, what they are permitted to do varies according to the state in which they were licensed.
However, the primary role of the hygienist is to carry out the following services:
- Oral exams include looking back at records, evaluating your risk for gingivitis, bone loss, tooth decay, worn-out restorations, and a cancer screening.
- Taking dental x-rays
- Check gum health by probing and recording tooth pocket depths
- Remove the accumulated plaque and calculus from teeth
- Make recommendations for improved hygiene strategies
- Counsel patients on proper nutrition for oral health.
- Apply preventative procedures such as sealants and/or fluoride.
- Inform the dentist of any issues that are uncovered at your appointments.
- Keep proper records of each patient’s care.
The above covers the basic description of a hygienist’s role in a dental practice, but their duties can vary widely depending on which state they are practicing in.
Also, some functions require the direct supervision of the practicing dentist to be carried out by the hygienist. But, again, a quick google search will provide information specific to your state.
How Does A Hygienist Remove Calculus from Teeth?
Most notably, a dental hygienist is tasked with removing plaque and calculus or tartar from teeth.
Plaque is a bacteria that forms on teeth. There are always bacteria in the mouth, which is the leading cause of tooth decay. Therefore, it is essential to brush your teeth twice a day and floss at least once.
Any plaque left on the surface will harden and become calculus or tartar.
The hygienist can find calculus at the gum line (supragingival), where it is visible and takes on a yellow or tan color, and below the gum line (subgingival), where it is not visible to the naked eye.
Calculus must be removed to prevent tooth loss, bone loss, gum disease and keep the oral environment healthy and disease-free. In addition to this, if calculus is left untreated and gum disease begins to take hold, this can impact overall full-body health. For example, periodontal disease or gum disease has been linked to diabetes, cancer, cognitive issues, cardiovascular diseases, strokes, etc.
Calculus needs to be removed by a dental professional as you can not remove it at home once it has formed. The term for removing calculus from the tooth is called debridement.
The dental hygienist will use handheld dental tools and ultrasonic devices to remove the calculus. The ultrasonic uses high-frequency vibrations to chip away at the cement-like substance. Once the calculus is removed, the hygienist will polish the teeth to remove any rough areas that might become more susceptible to plaque buildup.
Finally, depending on the state of your oral health, the hygienist will consult with the dentist and determine if any further steps are necessary to get your dental health to an optimal level. This may mean additional appointments to do a deeper cleaning or merely an appointment made for your next routine cleaning.
How Frequently Should You Have Your Teeth Professionally Cleaned?
Professional teeth cleaning is a standard practice in dental offices. Determining how often teeth should be professionally cleaned should be discussed between the dentist, hygienist, and patient.
For patients who practice good oral hygiene and have an overall healthy mouth, the standard of care suggested by most dental professionals is at least twice a year. However, some people may need to receive teeth cleanings more often. The key here is to understand the importance of this service.
The Connection Between Overall Health and Oral Health
Oral health is often singled out as an issue on its own, but oral health can directly affect a person’s overall health and often in significant ways. It should be no mystery that the mouth is teeming with bacteria. Some of these bacteria have been linked to diseases. Since the mouth is the gateway into the body, oral health should be a top priority.
Specifically, studies have shown that oral bacteria and inflammation linked to gum disease or periodontitis play a role in creating illness in the body.
The following conditions have been linked to oral health issues:
- Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke
- Endocarditis occurs when bacteria from the mouth spread in the blood and causes an infection in the lining of the heart
- Pneumonia and other respiratory diseases are caused by bacteria in the mouth traveling to the lungs.
- Pregnancy issues including low birth rates and premature births
- Cancer has also been linked to poor oral health
As seen above, the consequences of neglecting one’s oral health can lead to serious overall health issues and directly affect one’s quality of life. Something as simple as routine teeth cleaning can significantly impact both oral and overall health.
The key is to remove plaque and tartar that have formed on teeth.
What Is Plaque, and Why Is It Harmful?
Plaque is a colorless sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth. Foods that contain sugars and starches like soft drinks and candy feed this bacteria that live in the mouth. Over time, plaque can ruin the enamel on teeth and cause tooth decay. It also forms under the gums and tooth roots, causing bone loss and ultimately tooth loss.
The buildup of plaque can also cause a condition known as gingivitis. This is where the gums become sore, swollen, and bleed.
If left unchecked, periodontal disease develops, creating receding gums, and the bone supporting the teeth can be destroyed.
Why Are Routine Teeth Cleanings Important?
During a teeth cleaning, the number one focus is the removal of plaque.
As discussed earlier, plaque has detrimental health consequences to teeth, gums, roots, and facial bone. In addition, this bacteria has been linked to other serious health issues such as cardiovascular health, premature birth, dementia, and arthritis, as well as other issues.
After a teeth cleaning where the plaque has been removed, the bacteria that causes plaque begins to reform in about 48 hours. Therefore, no matter the level of at-home oral hygiene being done, it is inevitable that plaque will start to rebuild between dental visits.
The longer plaque is on a tooth structure, the harder it is to remove. Therefore, professional teeth cleanings done at least twice a year will seriously reduce the build-up of plaque and tartar, improving overall health.
The mouth is then checked for any abnormalities or lumps. If any problematic issues are found, the dentist may refer the patient to a cancer specialist for additional tests.
How Long Should A Typical Dental Cleaning Take?
The length of a professional dental cleaning appointment depends on the overall health of the teeth and whether or not patients adhere to regular dental checkups.
If the teeth and gums are healthy and plaque and tartar are at a minimum, the cleaning portion of the appointment, on average, will be no more than 30 minutes.
The length of time will increase as dental issues increase. For example, if there is gum disease, broken teeth, decay, and depending on the amount of plaque that needs to be removed, more time will be required. Anticipate spending anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour for a complete routine dental cleaning.
It is important to note that a dental checkup and cleaning is painless. The patient is placed in a reclined comfortable dental chair for the procedure.
Once the professional cleaning is complete, the teeth will feel smooth and appear brighter. These professional dental cleanings combined with brushing twice daily and flossing can help prevent gum disease and improve overall health. The dentist and hygienist are there to ensure a safe and pleasant experience from the beginning of the process to the end.