November 28, 2017

Every six months, it’s recommended that you make a visit to your friendly neighborhood dentist for a teeth cleaning. It’s at this visit that your dentist will check your teeth and gums for overall health and address any issues that need to be treated. Your check-up also includes a teeth cleaning which will be performed either by your dentist or dental hygienist.

You may be asking yourself: What does teeth cleaning involve and why do you need one every six months? Don’t worry, we at Scott Edwards DDS have the answers!

Why You Should Have Your Teeth Cleaned Professionally

Saliva contains calcium and other substances that protect and strengthen your teeth. Since it is always circulating your mouth, it is continuously in contact with your teeth. While it has useful properties, it can also create calcium deposits on your teeth. These deposits can be tooth-colored, brown, or black. Over time those buildups turn into something called calculus, which you may know by its other name, tartar. Tartar provides an ideal environment for bacteria to grow and propagate next to your gums.

Your mouth can be harboring dangerous bacteria even when tartar invisible to you. Your specially trained dentist or hygienist will be able to spot tartar, clean your teeth to remove it and leave your teeth smooth so bacteria cannot stick to them.

Dr. Edwards, as well as the Academy of General Dentistry, recommend having your teeth professionally cleaned twice per year to enhance your daily brushing and flossing. Maintaining a healthy mouth is a vital part of maintaining a healthy body.

What Should a Professional Teeth Cleaning Involve?

A professional cleaning, also known by its technical name prophylaxis, usually includes:

  • Flossing
  • The removal of tartar and plaque using specialized tools
  • Polishing
  • Applying fluoride (though, not all dentists do this)

These steps are commonly performed by a dental hygienist, and once they are done, your dentist will do the rest of your check-up.

The first step will seem somewhat familiar as your teeth are flossed. Then your teeth will be cleaned using several specialized tools. One tool is an ultrasonic instrument which knocks larger pieces of tartar loose using tickling vibrations and a cooling mist of water as your hygienist moves it around your mouth. Your hygienist will also use small instruments called “scalers” and “curettes” to remove small tartar deposits from your teeth gently. While these tools are curved, pointed and sharp, when used properly, they should not hurt. Sometimes they are metal, but at times plastic versions of these tools are used for patients who have dental implants.

Next, teeth are polished with a slow speed hand device with a rubber tip which spins. Your hygienist will load the tip with prophylaxis paste (we usually let you choose your favorite flavor) and then will run the tip over the fronts and back of the teeth to make them smooth and sparkly.

If your dental office uses fluoride, this is when it will be applied. Fluoride helps strengthen the teeth because the acids in the bacteria in tartar and plaque have weakened the surface. You should not eat or drink for 30 minutes after a fluoride treatment.

Most cleanings take 30 to 60 minutes, but some can take longer if you have skipped cleanings or have excessive amounts of plaque and tartar buildup. While a teeth cleaning can feel a little awkward, it should never be uncomfortable or cause pain. We do our best to ensure you have a gentle, pain-free experience!

If you do experience pain or discomfort, it could be that your dentist or dental hygienist was a little too aggressive with the cleaning. In some cases, however, if you have exposed dentin or sore gums, it can make a cleaning uncomfortable. Be sure to let your dentist or hygienist know when you experience pain or discomfort so he or she can be gentler and see if there are other issues that need to be addressed.

If you haven’t been to see your dentist for a cleaning in the past six months, call your dental office today! Most dental insurance covers two teeth cleanings each year.

If you are looking for a new dentist in the Memphis area, we here at Scott Edwards would be happy to serve you! Please give our friendly staff a call at our East Office at 901.681.0011 or our Midtown Office at 901.728.6515. We look forward to helping you keep your smile healthy and happy!