Dental Visits Decoded: Are Dental Cleanings Necessary?

Posted Jun 2019

By Delta Dental of Arkansas

Tagged dental cleaning, overall health, oral health, Benefits, dental plan

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Consistent visits to the dentist help maintain your oral and overall health.

Some love the slick feeling of their teeth after a teeth cleaning. Others dread the experience, avoid it, and put off their regular dentist visits. For those who don’t enjoy them, it can help to understand why teeth cleanings are necessary. Having a dental professional clean your teeth allows tartar and stains to be removed from spaces you can’t reach at home.

Even when brushing and flossing twice a day, food particles and plaque can hide in nooks and crannies. Additionally, crooked teeth provide more hiding places for food particles. If it’s been more than six months since you’ve found yourself in a dental chair, here’s a reminder of why teeth cleanings are necessary, plus what to expect at your next dental appointment.

Physical Exam of Your Mouth

To kick off your dental cleaning, a hygienist will do a physical exam of your mouth. It can be the dentist, also, but the process is the same. They are looking for any inflammation of the gum and for cavities. Cavities can look like a black or brown spot, a small fracture, or a hole in a tooth.

Next, the dental practitioner may choose to do what’s called a “periodontal screening.” This test for inflammation can be uncomfortable if gingivitis is present, making the gums more sensitive and swollen. Though uncomfortable, the periodontal screening is a necessary measurement of gum health. If your gums are healthy, the screening shouldn’t cause discomfort.

Plaque and Tartar

Plaque naturally forms in the mouth. It’s a sticky film of bacteria that covers the surface of your teeth after eating most things, especially sugars or starches. When the naturally-occurring bacteria in your mouth have access to an abundance of plaque, the bacteria consume it, producing harmful acids. These acids can attack your teeth for more than 20 minutes after you’ve finished eating! It wears down tooth enamel over time, promoting decay and other complications. If not removed, plaque can harden into tartar and eventually lead to gum disease.
Tartar forms when plaque is left on teeth long enough that it hardens. It can get so hard that it feels like a piece of shale or cement. At this point, brushing alone won’t remove it. Plaque can then build up on top of the tartar. This added buildup irritates the gums. It can eventually lead to gum disease, as well. If you were wondering, “Are regular teeth cleanings necessary?” the answer is yes.
Visiting the dentist or hygienist so that they can remove tartar between teeth prevents a host of overall health problems. The presence of dental plaque “may be linked to heart disease, arterial blockages, and stroke.” Here to keep you healthy are your bi-annual dental cleanings. The dentist will use a small tool called a scaler to scrape tartar from your teeth manually. It’s common to have at least some buildup. Ultrasonic scalers are also used, which break up the tartar with vibrations and water. If you are sensitive to dental cleanings, ask your dentist about ultrasonic cleanings today.

Once the stains and tartar have been removed, your dentist or hygienist will use a tool that squirts water into your mouth to rinse the particles away. A wand with suction is used to remove the excess water and debris out of your mouth.

Once hard deposits and stains have been removed, your dental professional may offer to polish your teeth. If you choose to polish your teeth, they will be brushed with gritty flavored toothpaste. The final step of the cleaning is a good, thorough flossing.

After you visit the dentist for a cleaning, give yourself a reward. Whether it’s a pat on the back or a new pair of shoes, rewarding yourself for facing a not-so-comfortable situation should be acknowledged. Preventive care will keep your smile healthy. It also helps control your healthcare costs by resolving any buildup before it becomes a more serious issue.
For information on finding a dentist and scheduling your next cleaning, click here.
Procedure descriptions cover what is typically involved in a procedure; actual method may vary by dental office. To understand exactly what your next dental appointment will entail, reach out to your dental office for a pre-appointment discussion.

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