Dental Visits Decoded: Are Cleanings Necessary?
We get it, it can be quite the inconvenience. Do you really have to argue with the little ones, take off work and rearrange all plans just to go to the dentist? Not to mention if you dread the experience, it might make it worse. However, the inconvenience is worth the investment. For those who don’t enjoy the cleaning experience, it can be helpful to understand why teeth cleanings are necessary. Having a dental professional clean your teeth allows tartar and stains to be removed from spaces you can’t reach at home.
If you’re thinking to yourself “but I brush and floss twice a day,” remember food particles and plaque can hide in nooks and crannies. Additionally, crooked teeth provide more hiding places for food particles. If it’s been more than six months since you’ve found yourself in a dental chair, here’s a reminder of why teeth cleanings are necessary, plus what to expect at your next dental appointment.
Physical Exam of Your Mouth
To kick off your dental cleaning, a hygienist or a dentist will do a physical exam of your mouth. During your cleaning, they will be looking for any redness of the gums and for cavities. Cavities can look like a black or brown spot, a small fracture, or a hole in your tooth.
Next, they may do what’s called a “periodontal (or gum) screening.” This is a test for gum redness that identifies if a gum disease such as gingivitis would be present. Gingivitis can make your gums more sensitive and swollen.
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Removal of Plaque and Tartar
What exactly is plaque? Plaque naturally forms in the mouth and is a sticky film of bacteria that covers the surface of your teeth after eating most things, especially sugars or starches. Plaque can produce acids that can attack your teeth for more than 20 minutes after you’ve finished eating! It wears down tooth enamel over time, promoting decay and other complications. If not removed, plaque can harden into tartar and eventually lead to gum disease.
Tartar forms when plaque is left on teeth long enough that it hardens. It can get so hard that it feels like a piece of hard rock or cement. At this point, brushing alone won’t remove it. Plaque can then build up on top of the tartar. This added buildup irritates the gums. It can eventually lead to gum disease, as well. So, if you were wondering, “Are regular teeth cleanings necessary?” the answer is yes.
It’s important to visit the dentist or hygienist so that they can remove tartar between teeth which helps prevent a host of additional overall health problems. The presence of dental plaque “may be linked to heart disease, arterial blockages, and stroke.” The dentist will use a small tool to scrape tartar and plaque from your teeth. It’s common to have at least some buildup, so don’t panic when they begin to work on your teeth. If you are sensitive to dental cleanings, ask your dentist about an ultrasonic cleaning, which breaks up the tartar with vibrations and water.
Once the stains, plaque and tartar have been removed, your dentist or hygienist will use a tool that squirts water into your mouth to rinse the particles away. A wand with suction is used to remove the excess water and debris out of your mouth.
Next, your dental professional may offer to polish your teeth. If you choose to polish your teeth, they will be brushed with textured and flavored toothpaste. The final step of the cleaning is a good, thorough flossing.
Treat yourself after you visit the dentist. Whether it’s a pat on the back or a new pair of shoes, rewarding yourself for facing a not-so-comfortable situation should be acknowledged. Preventive care will keep your smile healthy. It also helps control your healthcare costs by resolving any issues before it becomes a more serious problem.
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*Updated November 2020