The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), an organization of general dentists dedicated to continuing dental education, strongly recommends that a dentist or hygienist perform a dental cleaning every six months. Even if you are someone who brushes and flosses your teeth at least twice a day, a professional dental cleaning from Dr. Steven Leach will help your teeth feel smooth and clean. They will probably look a lot brighter too. But professional teeth cleaning are not just for looks!
Over time teeth tend to build up a layer of plaque (a sticky, bacteria-rich film) and hard deposits (called tartar, or calculus). Plaque and tartar are difficult to remove without special tools. When these deposits create ideal environments in which bacteria like to grow. Some of these bacteria then produce acid, which can cause tooth decay and gum disease. If left untreated, this may lead to inflammation and infection of the gums, and potentially influence systemic (whole body) diseases.
Dentists have a special term for preventive procedures like tooth cleaning: prophylaxis (from the Greek, meaning to protect or guard against). At Steven Leach Dental, professional cleanings are essential to preventing tooth decay and gum disease. When performed in conjunction with a routine dental examination, a professional cleaning is a great tool for controlling these two common maladies.. While your teeth are being cleaned, the experts at Steven Leach Dental will also take a close look at your overall oral health.
Teeth cleaning is often performed by a dental hygienist — a highly trained technician who uses specialized tools designed specifically for this purpose. Because everyone’s teeth are different, your cleaning will be tailored to your particular needs. In general, though, cleanings follow a similar pattern:
First, the dental hygienist will perform an oral examination to evaluate your oral health. Once complete, the hygienist will perform the cleaning to remove plaque and calculus. This will be done with either an ultrasonic scaler or metal instruments called “curettes.”
An ultrasonic scaler is a hand-held tool with a tiny tip that vibrates at a very high frequency. Hardened deposits are broken up by the rapid movement of the tip, which does not damage the tooth. A constant stream of liquid (called lavage) keeps the tip cool, aids in plaque removal and washes away debris.
Some hygienists prefer curettes, which are hand-held instruments that are curved and tapered to fit around and in between the teeth. For sensitive teeth, hand-held instruments may be a more comfortable option. Regardless of which instruments are used, in the hands of an the experts at Steven Leach Dental, it takes only moderate pressure to remove stubborn buildup and scrub the teeth clean.
The last step of your cleaning is polishing. Using a low-speed rotary brush with a soft rubber tip, a slightly gritty, toothpaste-like gel is applied, which smooths and shines your teeth.
For most, dental cleanings don’t cause noticeable discomfort; some even report they enjoy the experience (especially the dramatic results)! If you haven’t had a cleaning in a while, however, it may take you a few moments to become acclimated to the cleaning process. Any discomfort, however, may be addressed with topical numbing gel or another type of anesthetic.
If your gums are irritated due to bacterial buildup, they may become sore or bleed slightly during the cleaning. Good oral hygiene measures at home (such as improved flossing techniques or special mouthrinses) can help prevent this soreness at future cleanings. This irritation might also indicate a need more frequent cleanings. This regular maintenance will help you avoid more significant dental procedures down the road, and will increase your chances of a lifetime supply of healthy teeth!