Understanding the various parts of a professional dental cleaning may help you remember to prioritize your biannual visits to the dentist's office. Here are some things that dentists and dental hygienists do during teeth cleanings and the reasons that they do them:
1. Measure your gums.
If you've ever gone to a dental appointment and had your dental hygienist poke your gums with a long, thin tool, you may have wondered what they were doing. While this part of your professional cleaning may be uncomfortable, it's actually an important way to test your gum health. The tool that your dental hygienist uses allows them to measure the depth of your gums. Some diseases, like gingivitis and periodontitis, cause gum erosion, so the depth of your gum pockets is an excellent diagnostic tool.
2. Scrape plaque and tartar off your teeth.
When plaque is not removed by your daily brushing and flossing, it can contribute to the buildup of tartar, which can only be removed by a professional. During teeth cleanings, dental hygienists use sharp metal hooks to scrape plaque and tartar off your teeth. This may not be the most comfortable part of your teeth cleaning, but it's a vital way to prevent the buildup of tartar, which can lead to cavities. This portion of your dental cleaning can vary in length depending on how much tartar buildup has accumulated on your teeth. This process is similar to the dental planing technique used to treat gum disease.
3. Examine your mouth.
Professional teeth cleanings offer your dentist an important opportunity to examine your teeth and gums for signs of disease. This is accomplished using hand tools, such as small mirrors and probes, that allow your dentist to check for inflammation and visible cavities through a manual inspection. Once a year, patients should also undergo dental X-rays to allow dentists to spot areas of decay forming in places that are not visible to the naked eye.
4. Brush and floss your teeth.
Hopefully, you brush your teeth twice a day to keep cavities at bay. Your dental hygienist will also brush your teeth when you visit your dentist's office for a teeth cleaning. Instead of a regular toothbrush, they will use an electric polishing device with a spinning head to remove plaque and stains from your teeth. The toothpaste used during a professional cleaning is also different; it is more abrasive than consumer-grade toothpastes, which allows it to clean your teeth more effectively when used sparingly by professionals. After brushing your teeth, your dental hygienist will floss between each of your teeth to remove any lingering plaque and demonstrate the proper flossing technique.