What is teeth cleaning?
Teeth cleaning, also called dental prophylaxis, is the removal of plaque and tartar from teeth to prevent cavities and gum disease.
When professional teeth cleaning isn’t enough to remove tartar completely and/or your gums bleed when you brush or floss – it’s time for another form of teeth cleaning called scaling. Scaling is the removal of tartar that’s built up below the gum line that brushing and flossing can’t remove. A dental scaling service is important because tartar can only be removed in a dentist’s office.
Why do you need it?
- Prevents gum disease
When you have gum disease, your gums are inflamed, and they bleed when you brush or floss. The good news is that if you stop the damage now, you can probably stave off gum disease later by getting regular teeth cleaning and scaling to remove tartar buildup. If gum disease is left untreated for too long, it can get worse, and you could lose teeth.
- Prevents tooth decay
Having tartar stuck to your teeth makes it easier for plaque to stick around, which means that when bacteria in plaque combine with sugars in food, acid is produced. Acid attacks the enamel on your teeth over time, making them weaker and more prone to erosion.
- Prevents bad breath
We know it’s hard to believe, but plaque buildup can contribute to bad breath. Bacteria in plaque multiply and produce odorous substances that are often the problem.
- Prevents tooth loss
If you have tartar buildup, it’s harder for your dentist to do a filling. Without regular cleanings and scaling by your dentist, the untreated buildup can lead to tooth loss.
- Prevents infection
Infection from gum disease can spread from your gums into the bone around your teeth. This is called alveolar osteitis or periostitis, and it causes jaw pain that won’t go away, even after your gums improve with treatment. Once the infection reaches the bone, it can’t be reversed.
Who can benefit from it?
Anyone with gum disease or who is at risk of developing gum disease. That includes you if:
- You have bad breath that won’t go away on its own or that comes back after a couple of weeks
- Your gums bleed when you brush, floss, or clean your teeth between your teeth with a tool called an interdental cleaner
- Your gums have receded to the point that your teeth look longer than normal
If none of those sound familiar, it’s still a good idea to get regular teeth cleaning and scaling. It isn’t painful or uncomfortable, but if you have any questions about why you might need it, talk to your dentist.
- How often should I get teeth cleaning?
That depends on how well you do at home. If you follow your dentist’s instructions about not letting plaque build up, then once every six months may be enough for you. But if you have an especially hard time with brushing and flossing, or if you have a lot of tartar buildup, your dentist may recommend getting teeth cleaning and scaling every 3 months.
- Does it hurt?
No, but it might tickle a little bit when the water sprays into your mouth during teeth cleaning. Your teeth cleaning will be done just as quickly without the spray, which you might prefer anyway. If you feel any pain at all – even a pinprick – let your dentist know right away.
- What do I need to do before my appointment?
Eat or drink only liquids for at least an hour before your appointment so the dental hygienist can see what’s under your gums. If you wear dentures, remove them for an hour before your appointment so they can be checked too.
- What do I need to bring with me?
Your insurance card and a list of any medications you take regularly or as needed, including dosage instructions.
- How will my teeth cleaning and scaling be done?
We’ll start by cleaning the visible parts of your teeth. Then we’ll clean under your gums and floss to ensure all plaque is removed from between your teeth, either with ultrasonic tools or with tiny hand instruments called scalers that look like metal picks.
Then we’ll give you a fluoride treatment for any spots on your teeth that need it, and we’ll give you a prescription for fluoride mouthwash to use twice a day if you haven’t already been prescribed one.
- What should I expect after my teeth cleaning?
You may experience a little sensitivity in your gums or sore teeth from the air spray that’s used during the cleaning process. That will go away quickly after you rinse with plain water. And the plaque that was removed will give your gums a feeling of freshness that can last for several days, especially if you keep these steps up at home:
- Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, using a proper technique (see our tips below)
- Rinse after eating or drinking anything besides water, for at least 30 seconds
- Avoid foods that are high in sugar or starch since these will cause more plaque to form on your teeth
- If you wear dentures, keep them clean and store them safely so they don’t damage the soft tissues in your mouth
- What if I’m nervous?
It’s normal to feel a little anxious about your appointment, but the dental hygienist will help you relax by talking with you and making sure she uses gentle tools.
Tartar build up can be harmful to your oral health and gums. Getting teeth cleaning every six months is a good idea for everyone, even if you haven’t noticed any problems with your gums or teeth yet. If you have gum disease already, it’s important to get regular cleanings so that your condition doesn’t worsen.