Sometimes even the best of us fall behind schedule. This can happen in everything from routine car maintenance to yes, a visit to your dentist. Other times you may change dentists or move to a new area. In any of these circumstances, it's easy to forget quite what to expect out of a dental cleaning when you get back into the office. So whether it motivates you to schedule that overdue checkup, or if it's reassuring reminder that you're receiving proper dental care, here's what to expect in a dental cleaning.
When you first get into the dentist's chair, most often you'll be working with a dental hygienist to start your visit. The dental hygienist is skilled at removing both plaque and tartar from your teeth. Plaque is essentially a build up of bacteria that accumulates around your teeth and gum line. If plaque is left to accumulate around your teeth, it can cause issues like tooth decay and cavities or long term conditions like gingivitis and periodontal disease.
Tartar on the other hand is the product that is created after plaque resides on your teeth for an extended period of time. Tartar appears as a yellowish, harder material that requires more effort for the dental hygienist to remove. While plaque can cause several dental issues, tartar can accelerate those issues the longer it stays on your teeth. Just another good reminder to get your routine dental visits in. It is not uncommon for some patients to bleed slightly as plaque and tartar are removed. The hygienist uses a variety of tools including a suction device to ensure the most comfortable experience possible.
Once the hygienist has completed plaque and tartar removal, the next step is to perform a thorough brushing with special gritty or abrasive toothpaste. The hygienist uses a specialized electric toothbrush with an extra-abrasive toothpaste to remove any remnants of plaque or tartar that may still be on your teeth after the initial cleaning. Don't worry, although it sounds rough on your teeth, it will actually help clean them further. Finally, many offices conclude the cleaning process with flossing, which can be extremely helpful since it is from an outside view vs. when the patient flosses on their own. A fluoride rinse then concludes the cleaning portion of the visit.
After the dental hygienist has completed the initial cleaning on your teeth, next the dentist will come in for a meet and greet and an inspection. This is the time to bring up dental concerns to your dentist, or to simply ask any questions you may have about your dental health or treatment options. If you have not been into the office in a while or are beginning treatment with a new office, the dentist may request dental X-rays before or during this time. These X-rays can help diagnose issues below the gum line or display any tooth or bone damage that otherwise may be missed.
Next, the dentist will make a thorough inspection of your mouth to look for serious issues or recommend any needed treatments. This may range from filling a cavity to more substantial treatments like crowns or a root canal. They will also consult the dental X-ray if you have taken any during this session. Finally, your dentist will check for any irritation or redness of the gums that may indicate gingivitis or periodontal disease, and they will also inspect your mouth and related areas for any cancerous growths.
If you have a solid dental health routine and you visit your dentist routinely, this usually marks the end of your dental cleaning visit. If however your teeth are in need of additional treatment, your dentist will discuss it at this time. Some treatment options will be completed directly after the inspection portion of your visit. Should you require more substantial dental treatment, your dentist may begin the procedure now to be completed at another appointment, or schedule another visit to begin the recommended dental procedure. It's important to listen closely to your dentist if they recommend more substantial treatment, and don't forget to ask questions so you understand the treatment recommendations thoroughly.
While we would never recommend skipping your routine dental checkups every six months, we also know things can happen. This is why it never hurts to have a friendly reminder of how a professional, complete dental cleaning should proceed once you get into the dentist's office. At Grace & Leedy Family Dentistry, we ensure patients of every age receive all the care they need, which always starts with a comfortable dental cleaning experience. Contact us today to schedule your next cleaning.