What Happens During a Teeth Cleaning?

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What Happens During a Teeth Cleaning?
What Happens During a Teeth Cleaning?

Teeth cleanings are one of the services dental patients are most familiar with. Whether you adhere to the routine cleaning recommendations set forth by your dentist, or you engage in sporadic cleanings, you are likely at least somewhat familiar with the cleaning process. 

But what exactly is the purpose of a professional teeth cleaning? 

The Purpose of Teeth Cleaning

As your dentist has likely told you, it is wise to brush your teeth twice daily and floss at least once. These are the basics of oral hygiene. Even when dental patients practice good oral hygiene, dental cleanings are essential to maintain proper dental care. There are three reasons for this: general health maintenance, early awareness, and stubborn debris removal. 

Oral Health Maintenance

To properly stave off tooth decay, gum disease, and other ailments, you must remove plaque and tartar regularly. Although your home routine may be perfect, it cannot successfully deep clean your teeth and gums as effectively as a professional cleaning can. 

Early Awareness of Issues

During cleanings, dental hygienists check for signs of disease, decay, and other issues found within the oral cavity. When patients go in 1-2 times per year (or more) for routine dental cleanings, they also receive routine dental exams. In the same way that you are encouraged to visit your doctor at least once each year, you are encouraged to meet with your dentist to get ahead of any oral health issues that might have developed or be in the process of developing. 

Removal of Stubborn Debris

Plaque may be removed by brushing and flossing, but tartar is a far more stubborn entity, and it can lead to periodontal disease and other issues on the teeth and at the gum line. Dentists use a technique called scaling to successfully remove tartar. Because tartar is hardened plaque, it does not respond to even the most vigorous personal scrub. 

What to Expect During a Cleaning

Cleanings typically follow the same basic framework, though discoveries made during a routine cleaning may change the overall trajectory of the appointment. Dental cleanings will usually involve an exam, scaling for tartar removal, polishing, and flossing. 

General Examination

During the examination, your dentist or dental hygienist will look over your teeth and gums. During this portion of the appointment, you can expect your dentist to use gloved hands, a mirror, and a small hook-like instrument to check for signs of decay, oral cancer, and gum disease, including black spots on the teeth, swollen, red, or tender gums, receding gums, and unusual spots, bumps, or growths in the oral cavity. 

Tartar Removal

Tartar removal is arguably the least pleasant part of the experience, though it should not be painful. Tartar is removed by scraping the teeth at the gum line to remove the hardened remnants of dental plaque

Teeth Polishing

After tartar has been removed, your hygienist will polish your teeth using a specific compound and a small tool similar to a buffing pad. The polish is designed to remove any remaining plaque, creating a smooth surface on your teeth, removing stains, and decreasing the presence of biofilm on the surface of teeth.


Your dentist will complete your cleaning by flossing between teeth. This portion of your cleaning will not differ significantly from your home hygiene practice but will effectively remove any buildup or debris you may have between your teeth. 

Getting Your Teeth Cleaned in Elkin, NC

The ADA currently recommends 1-2 (or more) cleanings each year, depending on your risk factors and dental health. If you are in search of the best dental practice in Elkin, NC, schedule your teeth cleaning appointment today!

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