Dental Emergencies

What does dental cleaning do to your teeth?

Maintaining good oral hygiene is essential for a healthy smile and overall well-being. While regular brushing and flossing play a crucial role in keeping your teeth clean, they may not be enough to remove all the plaque and tartar buildup. That’s where dental cleaning comes in. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the process of dental cleaning, its benefits, and why it is essential for maintaining optimal oral health.

Table of Contents

  1. Understanding the Importance of Dental Cleaning
  2. What Happens During a Dental Cleaning
  • A Physical Exam
  • Removing Plaque and Tartar
  • Gritty Toothpaste Cleaning
  • Expert Flossing
  • Rinsing
  • Applying Fluoride Treatment
  • Other Potential Steps
  1. The Benefits of Regular Dental Cleanings
  2. How Often Should You Get a Dental Cleaning
  3. Choosing the Right Dental Professional
  4. Preparing for Your Dental Cleaning Appointment
  5. Maintaining Oral Hygiene Between Dental Cleanings
  6. FAQs About Dental Cleaning
  7. Conclusion

1. Understanding the Importance of Dental Cleaning

Dental cleaning, also known as a professional dental prophylaxis, is a preventive procedure performed by a dental hygienist to remove plaque, tartar, and stains from your teeth. It is an integral part of maintaining good oral health and preventing dental problems such as cavities, gum disease, and bad breath.

Regular dental cleaning not only helps keep your teeth and gums healthy but also contributes to your overall well-being. Research has shown that poor oral health is linked to various systemic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory infections. By maintaining a clean and healthy mouth, you can reduce the risk of these serious health conditions.

2. What Happens During a Dental Cleaning

Dental cleaning involves several steps that are performed by a dental hygienist. Let’s dive into each of these steps to gain a better understanding of what happens during a dental cleaning.

A Physical Exam

Before the actual cleaning process begins, the dental hygienist will start with a thorough physical exam of your mouth. Using a small mirror, they will check for any signs of gum inflammation or other potential concerns, such as gingivitis. If they detect any major problems, they may consult with the dentist before proceeding with the cleaning.

Removing Plaque and Tartar

Once the physical exam is complete, the dental hygienist will use a scaler to remove plaque and tartar from your teeth. This is done by gently scraping along the gum line and in between your teeth. While you may hear some scraping sounds, this is a normal part of the process.

It is important to note that brushing and flossing alone cannot remove tartar once it has formed. Tartar can only be effectively removed by a dental professional during a cleaning session. Therefore, maintaining a consistent oral hygiene routine at home is crucial in preventing the buildup of plaque and tartar.

Gritty Toothpaste Cleaning

After the plaque and tartar have been removed, the dental hygienist will brush your teeth using a high-powered electric brush. This brushing technique helps to deep clean the surfaces of your teeth and remove any remaining tartar. The toothpaste used during this step may have a gritty consistency to provide a gentle scrubbing action. While this type of toothpaste is safe for professional use, it is not recommended for everyday use at home, as it may lead to enamel erosion.

Expert Flossing

Even if you floss regularly at home, nothing compares to an expert flossing session during a dental cleaning. The dental hygienist will use professional-grade floss to get deep between your teeth and remove any leftover plaque or toothpaste from earlier in the cleaning process. This thorough flossing also allows them to identify any potential trouble spots where you may experience bleeding gums.


After the cleaning and flossing are complete, you will rinse out your mouth to remove any debris and residual cleaning agents. The dental hygienist may provide you with a rinse containing liquid fluoride, which helps strengthen your teeth and prevent cavities.

Applying Fluoride Treatment

The final step in the dental cleaning process is the application of a fluoride treatment. Fluoride is a mineral that helps protect your teeth against decay and cavities. Your dental hygienist may ask you to choose a flavor for the treatment, and then they will apply a foamy gel or sticky paste to your teeth using a mouthpiece or a small brush. The fluoride treatment is typically left on your teeth for about a minute before you can eat or drink.

Other Potential Steps

In addition to the standard steps mentioned above, your dental cleaning appointment may include other procedures based on your specific needs. For example, X-rays are commonly performed once a year to detect any hidden dental issues. Children may be recommended to have molar sealants applied to prevent cavities in hard-to-brush areas. Your dental professional will assess your oral health and determine if any additional steps are necessary.

3. The Benefits of Regular Dental Cleanings

Regular dental cleanings offer a wide range of benefits that contribute to your oral health and overall well-being. Let’s explore some of the key benefits of scheduling regular dental cleanings.

  • Prevention of Cavities: Dental cleanings remove plaque and tartar, which are the main culprits behind tooth decay. By keeping your teeth clean, you can prevent cavities from forming and save yourself from the pain and expense of dental fillings.
  • Early Detection of Dental Issues: During a dental cleaning, the dental hygienist and dentist have the opportunity to examine your mouth closely. This allows them to identify any signs of gum disease, oral cancer, or other dental problems at an early stage. Early detection increases the chances of successful treatment and minimizes the risk of complications.
  • Gum Disease Prevention: Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a serious condition that affects the tissues surrounding your teeth. Regular dental cleanings help remove plaque and tartar that can lead to gum disease. By preventing gum disease, you can avoid tooth loss, bad breath, and other complications associated with this condition.
  • Brighter, Whiter Smile: Dental cleanings help remove surface stains caused by coffee, tea, tobacco, and other factors. This results in a brighter and whiter smile, enhancing your overall appearance and boosting your self-confidence.
  • Improved Overall Health: Maintaining good oral health is closely linked to your overall health. Research has shown that poor oral hygiene is associated with various systemic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory infections. By keeping your teeth and gums clean, you can reduce the risk of these serious health conditions.

4. How Often Should You Get a Dental Cleaning

The frequency of dental cleanings depends on several factors, including your oral health status, age, and risk factors for dental problems. In general, it is recommended to have a dental cleaning every six months. However, some individuals may require more frequent cleanings, while others with excellent oral health may only need one cleaning per year.

It is important to consult with your dental professional to determine the ideal frequency of dental cleanings for your specific needs. They will assess your oral health and develop a personalized treatment plan that includes regular cleanings.

5. Choosing the Right Dental Professional

When it comes to dental cleaning, it is crucial to choose a qualified and experienced dental professional. Here are some factors to consider when selecting the right dental professional for your cleanings:

  • Credentials: Ensure that the dental professional is licensed and has the necessary credentials to perform dental cleanings.
  • Experience: Look for a dental professional with extensive experience in performing dental cleanings.
  • Patient Reviews: Read reviews and testimonials from previous patients to get an idea of the quality of care provided by the dental professional.
  • Technology and Facilities: Consider the technology and facilities available at the dental clinic. Advanced equipment can enhance the effectiveness and comfort of your dental cleaning experience.
  • Insurance Coverage: Check if the dental professional accepts your dental insurance to reduce out-of-pocket expenses.

By choosing the right dental professional, you can ensure that your dental cleanings are performed safely and effectively, promoting optimal oral health.

6. Preparing for Your Dental Cleaning Appointment

To make the most of your dental cleaning appointment, it is essential to prepare beforehand. Here are some tips to help you prepare for your dental cleaning:

  • Update Your Medical History: Inform your dental professional about any changes in your medical history, medications, or allergies since your last visit. This information is crucial in ensuring your safety during the cleaning process.
  • Brush and Floss: Maintain your regular oral hygiene routine by brushing your teeth thoroughly and flossing before your appointment. This helps remove some of the plaque and tartar before the cleaning.
  • Arrive Early: Arrive at the dental clinic a few minutes before your scheduled appointment to complete any necessary paperwork and reduce stress.
  • Bring Your Insurance Information: If you have dental insurance, bring your insurance card and any necessary documentation to streamline the billing process.

By following these simple steps, you can ensure a smooth and successful dental cleaning appointment.

7. Maintaining Oral Hygiene Between Dental Cleanings

While dental cleanings are essential, maintaining good oral hygiene between appointments is equally important. Here are some tips to help you maintain optimal oral health between dental cleanings:

  • Brush twice a day: Brush your teeth thoroughly using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Brushing for at least two minutes helps remove plaque and prevent cavities.
  • Floss daily: Flossing is crucial in removing plaque and food particles from between your teeth and along the gum line. Make it a habit to floss at least once a day to maintain healthy gums.
  • Use mouthwash: Rinse your mouth with an antimicrobial mouthwash to kill bacteria and freshen your breath. Choose a mouthwash that contains fluoride for added protection against cavities.
  • Eat a balanced diet: Limit your consumption of sugary and acidic foods, as they can contribute to tooth decay. Instead, opt for a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and dairy products to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
  • Avoid tobacco and excessive alcohol: Smoking and chewing tobacco increase the risk of gum disease and oral cancer. Similarly, excessive alcohol consumption can have detrimental effects on your oral health. Quitting tobacco and moderating your alcohol intake can significantly improve your oral health.

By following these oral hygiene practices, you can maintain a clean and healthy mouth between dental cleanings, reducing the risk of dental problems.

8. FAQs About Dental Cleaning

1. Is dental cleaning painful?

Dental cleaning is generally not painful. However, some individuals may experience mild discomfort or sensitivity during certain parts of the cleaning process, such as when the dental hygienist is removing tartar or flossing between the teeth. If you feel any discomfort, inform your dental professional, and they can adjust their techniques to make you more comfortable.

2. How long does a dental cleaning appointment take?

The duration of a dental cleaning appointment can vary depending on several factors, including the amount of plaque and tartar buildup, the thoroughness of the cleaning required, and any additional procedures performed. On average, a dental cleaning appointment lasts between 30 minutes to an hour. However, more extensive cleanings or additional treatments may require longer appointment times.

3. Can dental cleaning cause sensitivity?

Dental cleaning itself does not cause sensitivity in most cases. However, if you already have sensitive teeth or gum recession, you may experience temporary sensitivity or discomfort during the cleaning process. This sensitivity usually subsides shortly after the cleaning. If you have concerns about sensitivity, discuss it with your dental professional before your cleaning appointment.

4. Are dental cleanings covered by insurance?

Many dental insurance plans cover routine dental cleanings as part of their preventive care coverage. However, the extent of coverage and any out-of-pocket expenses can vary depending on your specific insurance plan. It is advisable to contact your dental insurance provider to understand your coverage and any associated costs.

5: What happens to your teeth after dental cleaning?

A: After a dental cleaning, your teeth will feel cleaner and smoother. Plaque and tartar buildup will be removed, reducing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Your dentist may also polish your teeth to remove surface stains, leaving your smile looking brighter and fresher.

6: Is a dental deep cleaning ever really necessary?

A: Yes, a dental deep cleaning, also known as scaling and root planning, is necessary in certain situations. It is typically recommended when there is a significant buildup of plaque and tartar below the gumline, causing gum disease. Deep cleaning helps remove the bacteria and debris from the pockets around the teeth, promoting gum healing and preventing further damage.

7: How often should teeth be cleaned?

A: It is generally recommended to have your teeth professionally cleaned by a dentist or dental hygienist every six months. Regular dental cleanings help prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar, reduce the risk of cavities and gum disease, and keep your teeth and gums healthy. However, the frequency may vary depending on your individual oral health needs, so it’s best to consult with your dentist.

8: Will my teeth feel better after a cleaning?

A: Yes, your teeth will usually feel better after a dental cleaning. The removal of plaque and tartar helps eliminate bacteria that can cause tooth decay and gum disease. Your teeth will feel cleaner, smoother, and may even appear brighter. Additionally, your dentist may provide recommendations for maintaining good oral hygiene, which can contribute to long-term oral health and a more comfortable feeling in your mouth.

9: Can dental cleaning remove cavities?

A: Dental cleaning alone cannot remove cavities. Cavities are areas of tooth decay that require specific dental treatments such as fillings, root canals, or dental crowns. However, regular dental cleanings can help prevent cavities by removing plaque and tartar, which are the main culprits behind tooth decay. It’s important to visit your dentist regularly to detect and address cavities before they worsen.

10: Does dental cleaning whiten teeth?

A: While dental cleaning can remove surface stains and make your teeth appear brighter, it is not a teeth whitening procedure. Dental cleaning primarily focuses on removing plaque, tartar, and bacteria from the teeth and gums. If you’re looking for a more dramatic teeth whitening effect, your dentist may recommend professional teeth whitening treatments that utilize bleaching agents to lighten the color of your teeth.

11: What to do before teeth cleaning?

A: Before a teeth cleaning appointment, it is important to brush your teeth thoroughly with fluoride toothpaste and floss to remove any food particles or plaque. It is also a good idea to inform your dentist about any changes in your medical history or medications you are taking. Arriving on time and having a relaxed mindset can also contribute to a smooth and comfortable dental cleaning experience.

12: Is dental cleaning healthy for teeth?

A: Yes, dental cleaning is beneficial and healthy for teeth. Regular dental cleanings help remove plaque and tartar, which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease if left untreated. By removing these harmful substances, dental cleanings contribute to maintaining good oral hygiene, preventing oral health issues, and promoting overall dental health.

13: What are the side effects of dental cleaning?

A: Dental cleaning is generally a safe procedure with minimal side effects. However, some individuals may experience temporary sensitivity, mild gum soreness, or bleeding after a cleaning. These side effects usually subside within a few days. If you have underlying dental conditions or sensitive teeth, it’s important to inform your dentist beforehand to ensure appropriate measures are taken to minimize any discomfort.

9. Conclusion

Dental cleaning is a vital component of maintaining optimal oral health. By undergoing regular dental cleanings, you can prevent dental problems, detect issues early on, and contribute to your overall well-being. Remember to schedule your dental cleanings regularly, follow a proper oral hygiene routine at home, and choose a qualified dental professional to ensure the best possible results. Invest in your oral health today for a brighter and healthier smile tomorrow.

At Capital Dentistry, we provide comprehensive dental cleaning services to patients in the Ottawa and Gatineau regions. Our team of experienced dental professionals is committed to delivering exceptional care and helping you achieve excellent oral health. Contact us today to schedule your dental cleaning appointment and take the first step toward a healthier smile.