The Teeth Cleaning Procedure
Step 1: Physical Exam / Assessment
Before the professional teeth cleaning procedure can begin, the dental hygienist will start by conducting a thorough assessment / physical examination of your entire mouth. The hygienist will typically use a small concave mirror to check your mouth and surrounding structures for any signs of oral or dental problems, such as inflamed gums, plaque and tartar build-up, or dark spots or stains on your teeth.
This is an important first step in the process as it helps the dental hygienist know what to focus on during the teeth cleaning procedure and identify any potential areas of concern. If more serious issues or problems such as cavities or gum disease are detected during the initial assessment, the hygienist will inform the dentist for a more thorough examination to be conducted.
Step 2: Removing plaque and tartar
If the oral hygienist does not detect any further issues during your initial assessment, he/she will progress to the next step of the teeth cleaning procedure – Removing the plaque and tartar from your teeth. With the small mirror as a guide, the dental hygienist will use a small hooked tool called a scaler to remove any plaque and tartar from the surface of your teeth, near your gum line and in between your teeth. Depending on the degree of plaque and tartar build-up, either a manual or ultrasonic scaler is used.
The main difference between the two is that a manual scaler feels like scraping on the teeth while the ultrasonic scaler uses gentle vibration and water to remove large deposits. The more tartar there is on your teeth, the longer the process will take.
Step 3: Polishing and flossing
Once your teeth are plaque and tartar-free, the dental hygienist will polish your teeth and remove any additional stains using a handheld electric tool with a rubber prophy cup attached and a gritty toothpaste called prophylaxis paste. During this step of the process, you can expect to feel a slow grinding motion on your teeth. While the ‘grinding’ sound can often make some patients feel uneasy, it sounds far worse than it actually is. It is a great way to get a much deeper dental cleaning and remove any additional tartar left behind from the scaler.
After the scaling and polishing process is completed, the dental hygienist will floss your teeth to remove any remaining plaque and paste. Afterwards you will rinse your mouth to get rid of any excess debris. Usually your hygienist will use a rinse that contains liquid fluoride to help strengthen your teeth.
Step 4: Topical Fluoride Treatment
The last step of the teeth cleaning procedure is a fluoride treatment. This treatment is typically used as an additional protectant for your teeth to help fight/protect them from cavities. Often, the dental hygienist will give you the option of choosing what flavor fluoride gel you like. The gel is placed inside a mouthpiece that fits over your teeth. You will then be asked to bite down onto the mouthpiece for approximately one minute.