Dental cleaning: why do you need professional teeth cleaning?

06 October · 4 minutes

While brushing and flossing your teeth is vital to maintaining a healthy mouth and good oral hygiene, it’s not always enough. Sometimes when we drink things like coffee or tea, it creates stains that are impossible to get out with our toothpaste and toothbrush alone. Plus if we go a long time without a dental hygiene appointment, the plaque that hides in those hard to reach places can turn into tartar. Tough stains and hardened tartar both require an extra trip to the dentist’s office, which can be avoided by regularly getting a professional teeth cleaning.

In this article we’ll go over what a professional dental cleaning is and what it entails. Plus we’ll also address many frequently asked questions about teeth hygiene.

Dental hygienist checking a patient’s teeth

What is a dental cleaning or scaling and polishing?

Let’s start with dental cleaning: what is it and what does it do? Dental cleaning is a simple procedure performed to maintain good teeth and oral hygiene and remove plaque and tartar. This procedure is also known as teeth scaling and polishing.

A dental cleaning or scale and polish should always be carried out by a dental hygienist, they are usually the profession who is responsible for general hygiene appointments at your general dentists office.

What does a dental cleaning do for your teeth?

As previously mentioned, brushing and flossing at home is only part of the equation when it comes to supporting our teeth and oral hygiene. So what exactly is it that dental cleanings do for our teeth that make them so special? Well, professional teeth cleanings mean professional tools and professional hygienists. Both of these are essential to reaching that next level of clean. But it’s not just about being clean, oral hygiene is intended to help us prevent problems like cavities and diseases like gingivitis or periodontitis.

Hygiene appointments should be used as a complement to daily brushing and flossing, not as a substitute for it. Professional teeth cleanings serve to reinforce the hygiene of our mouth and help to maintain good general health.

What are the steps in the teeth cleaning process and what dental instruments do they use?

So now that we know what a scale and polish or a dental hygiene appointment is, it’s time to take a look at the teeth cleaning process step by step.

Your hygenist should always start with an inspection. They’ll examine each tooth and check the your gum health. With this information, they’ll develop the cleaning strategy as well as if they’re require a scale and polish. Once the hygenist has determined your treatment plan, they can begin the teeth cleaning process, which consists of two main steps:

  1. The treatment begins with ultrasonic teeth cleaning. This process uses a cavitator, an instrument for dental cleaning that has a vibrating tip and expels water. The pressurized water is introduced into the margins of the gums, removing and dislodging tartar or calculus. The water pressure and vibration also help to remove surface stains from food, tea, coffee and tobacco.
  2. Once your hygenist has passed the cavitator over all the teeth, a brush with a rotating head is used to help spread a prophylaxis paste, more commonly referred to as fluoride. This paste helps to remove both stains and bacterial plaque.

After these two dental cleaning steps are complete, your dentist will usually give tips on how to improve daily teeth hygiene if deemed necessary.

Patient getting a scale and polish

Are there different types of dental cleanings?

Dental cleaning (also known as "scale and polish" or "hygiene appointment") is often mistaken for another procedure called ‚ÄúRoot planing and scaling‚ÄĚ (commonly referred to as "deep dental cleaning"). However, it is important to know that these are two different treatments with different purposes.

The root planing and scaling, being the ‚Äúdeeper‚ÄĚ clean of the two, starts by removing the deposits of plaque and tartar on the surface and all the way down in the periodontal pockets. After the gum line has been thoroughly cleaned, the next step is to begin root planing. This type of teeth cleaning is more complex and is only recommended for patients with periodontal problems.

A basic hygiene appointment or scale and polish, the other type of teeth cleaning, has a preventive purpose. It is the simpler of the two procedures and is the most common. Professional teeth cleanings for little ones are sometimes even simpler than that. Since children hardly accumulate tartar, sometimes the cleaning is done by a pediatric dentist and consists only of cleaning with fluoride (the cavitator is not used).

What should you do after a teeth cleaning?

So now that we’ve covered the different types of dental cleaning and how they’re done, you’re probably wondering what to do after the teeth cleaning appointment. To prolong the results of a professional teeth cleaning, it’s important to maintain good oral hygiene at home. To help, we’ve included some tips and tricks for improving your at-home teeth cleaning process:

  • After scaling and polishing your teeth, brushing them frequently will help maintain the effects of this treatment. Brushing should be done at least twice a day (morning and evening), but ideally just after every meal, especially if the dental cleaning was performed on a patient with braces or aligners.
  • The toothbrush used should be soft and with straight bristles (3 or 4 rows). Ideally, it should not contain rubber bands or other "extras" as these elements can actually interfere with the brushing technique.
  • Speaking of technique, the toothbrush should be used at a 45-degree position, allowing the bristles to enter between the tooth and the gum. This is where the most plaque accumulates, so it‚Äôs essential to brush both the outer and inner side of the teeth.
  • Flossing at least once a day is also a vital step in dental cleaning. When choosing dental floss, we recommend choosing unwaxed floss, as it traps more plaque.
Man smiling at himself in the mirror while brushing his teeth

What is the cost of dental cleaning and teeth sclaing?

The cost of dental cleaning and teeth scaling varies depending a number of factors like the geographic location, the dental cleaning instruments, and the actual clinic itself. Usually the average cost of dental cleaning in the US falls somewhere between $90 and $125 before insurance.

What you need to know about teeth cleaning with braces and other orthodontics

Can you get dental cleanings with braces on your teeth?

Maintaining good oral hygiene is essential with orthodontics and, depending on the device, this isn’t always easy. For example, having braces fixed to your teeth can make dental cleaning complicated as the brackets and wires make brushing and flossing more difficult. This means cleaning plus scaling and polishing your teeth while you have braces is key. A lot of the time, your orthodontist will actually recommend professional cleanings to maintain good hygiene.

However, this isn’t the case with removable orthodontics, such as Impress clear aligners. Dental hygiene with removable orthodontics is easy because the patient can remove the aligners to brush their teeth normally. This makes it easier to brush and floss. Plus, as long as a cleaning has been performed before starting treatment, it is not necessary to perform another cleaning in the middle of the treatment.

Lady puting in her invisible aligners

Do you have to get your teeth cleaned before getting braces?

The short answer is yes - dental cleaning is not only important during orthodontic treatment with braces or aligners, it’s especially important beforehand. Before starting, it’s essential to have good oral health, which is why many specialists recommend that you get your teeth cleaned before starting treatment with braces or other orthodontics.

Our priority is the health of our patients and therefore, at Impress, we ensure that all patients start treatment with excellent dental and gum health. Dental cleaning or a scale and polish is a treatment that helps to improve the oral health of our patients and that is why it’s one of the most frequent pre-orthodontic treatments among our patients. If the patient has not had a professional dental cleaning in the previous few weeks, we recommend that they make an appointment for this procedure before starting their invisible orthodontic treatment.

If you are thinking of changing your smile, contact us and find out more about our orthodontic treatments and the preworks available at your nearest Impress clinic. You can get in touch with us by calling 888.490.1421 via phone, or by booking your initial consultation online. Discover what Impress can do for your smile at your nearest clinic!

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Frequently asked questions about dental cleaning

Does teeth cleaning hurt?

Teeth cleaning should almost never hurt, especially in patients with good oral health. But it is possible that the teeth scaling part of the procedure may be painful if the patient suffers from tooth sensitivity or if they have a cavity.

How often should you get your teeth cleaned?

Each case is different, so how often you should get your teeth cleaned is different for everyone. But patients with good oral health should ideally have a dental cleaning every 8 to 12 months. If the patient has gum or periodontal problems, the cleanings should be more frequent, like every 3 to 5 months.

How long does a dental cleaning take?

A dental cleaning usually takes around 30 to 40 minutes.

Can you get your teeth cleaned when you’re pregnant?

Yes, and not only can you, you should! Many dentists recommend that pregnant individuals should get cleanings because there is a higher risk of gingivitis and cavaties due to hormonal changes. The only thing to keep in mind is that the use of anesthesia should be avoided with pregnancy.

How long after teeth cleaning I eat?

Not long! If your cleaning included prophylaxis paste, or fluoride, you should wait at least 30 minutes to eat after treatment. Once that time is up, there aren’t any food restrictions, although people who drink a lot of coffee or smoke are advised to reduce their consumption to avoid the appearance of new stains on their teeth.


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