Taking care of your teeth is a matter of diligence. The foundation of dental health is the routine daily tasks: brushing, flossing, and a healthy diet. These practices go a long way towards maintaining your teeth and gums, and as lifelong habits, they do wonders for your overall health. However, we can all take a few other steps to protect our dental health. Chief among these is regular exams and cleanings. The importance of dental cleanings is difficult to overstate; regular exams and cleaning help prevent many common oral health issues while giving your dentist a chance to detect other problems before they become serious. To more fully explore the importance of dental cleaning, let’s talk about what goes into teeth cleaning and what the benefits are.
Dental cleaning or teeth cleaning–both names are used–is a routine service typically offered by dentists as part of a regular exam. The goal of a dental cleaning is just that–to clean the teeth then daily brushing and flossing allow. While there are different approaches to cleaning teeth depending on the patient’s needs, a typical teeth cleaning might go something like this:
- In most teeth cleanings, scaling is the first step. Scaling means removing hardened dental plaque–also known as dental calculus–from the teeth using a manual tool. The kind of tool used depends on the amount and density of the calculus. For smaller amounts, a simple manual tool is used, but for larger quantities or particularly stubborn calculus, your dentist or dental hygienist may elect to use an ultrasonic tool.
- After scaling, the next step may involve a short exam in which the dentist or dental hygienist will check for pitting. Pitting occurs when the gums pull away from the teeth due to gum infection or gum disease. If pitting is present, the person performing the exam will note the location and depth of the pits. Pitting can be remediated with regular cleanings and good at-home dental hygiene habits.
- From there, a dental cleaning will typically move on to polishing. Polishing involves just what the name suggests: using a rotary dental tool and a mild abrasive compound to smooth and polish the surface of the teeth. It does some things, including removing debris and bacteria, smoothing the surface to make it more difficult for bacteria to thrive, and brightening the appearance of the teeth. It can also help remove some staining or discoloration.
- Finally, a dental cleaning will often end with a fluoride treatment. This may come in the form of a rinse, a gel, or a varnish-type application, but the goal is to apply fluoride to remineralize and strengthen the teeth after a cleaning. Fluoride preserves the enamel outer layer of the teeth, which protects them from wear, tear, and bacteria. Fluoride doesn’t taste particularly good on its own, so most fluoride treatments come flavored like cherry, mint, or strawberry.
Each step of a dental cleaning is designed to help your teeth look and feel their best by removing unwanted debris, plaque, or another buildup; preventing and detecting infection and bacteria; by strengthening your teeth overall. This is the importance of dental cleaning–it offers a deeper and more detailed cleaning than regular brushing and flossing, and helps keep your teeth strong and healthy. At every stage of life, regular teeth cleanings and dental exams are vital parts of caring for your teeth. If you’re due for an exam and cleaning, get in touch today so we can make an appointment!