Dental Visits Decoded: Cleanings

Preventive dental care keeps your smile healthy and helps control costs.

Preventive dental care keeps your smile healthy and helps control costs.

Having a dental professional clean your teeth helps remove tartar and stains that you can’t remove on your own. If it’s been awhile since you’ve found yourself in a dental chair, here’s what you can expect when you go in for a cleaning.

Tartar forms when plaque is left on teeth long enough that it hardens like cement, which brushing alone can’t remove. Plaque can then build up on top of the tartar, which irritates the gums and may eventually cause gum disease. The dentist or hygienist will use a small tool called a scaler to manually scrape any tartar and stains from your teeth. (Most people have at least some buildup.) In addition, some dentists use ultrasonic scalers, which break up the tartar with vibrations.

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 and a tool to suck the excess water and debris out of your mouth.

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

After you visit the dentist for a cleaning, give yourself a pat on the back. Preventive care keeps your smile healthy and helps control costs by taking care of problems before they become more serious.

Note: Procedure descriptions cover what is typically involved in a procedure; actual method may vary by dental office.

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