How Long Does a Dental Cleaning Take?
Dental cleanings are an important part of a routine visit to your dentist’s office. Performed by a dental hygienist, these cleanings go far beyond the merely cosmetic, though they certainly do make one’s teeth look and feel refreshed. In fact, these cleanings are one of the primary means through which your regular dental visits actually help stave off both gum disease and tooth decay. During the course of a dental cleaning, your dental hygienist is removing millions upon millions of tiny bacteria that exist in your mouth in the form of plaque and tartar. While daily brushing and flossing can remove a good deal of bacteria and small bits of food that have begun to accumulate on the teeth, it cannot remove hardened calculus that has become stuck to them; this is something that only a trained dental hygienist can do using specialized instruments.
For this reason, it is very important to keep up with your twice-yearly dental visits; if you are suffering from either beginning or advanced stages of gum disease, your dentist may request that you come in for dental cleanings more frequently (every 3-4 months instead of every 6 months, for example).
What Does a Dental Cleaning Consist Of?
During the course of a dental cleaning, your dental hygienist will be working towards two primary goals: to clean and polish your teeth. To clean your teeth and remove all of the plaque and tartar that has built up on them, your dental hygienist might first choose to use an ultrasonic instrument that uses mechanical vibrations to dislodge large accumulations of tartar. This is not a painful procedure, as the vibrations are mild, and your dental hygienist will also use small streams of water to wash away any debris that is made loose by the instrument.
To remove remaining bits of plaque and tartar, your dental hygienist will then use a number of specialized scraping instruments called curettes and scalers. These are the long instruments with the small, curved scraping side that your dental hygienist uses to physically scrape away at detritus that has accumulated in certain areas. To ensure their own ability to see the area they are working on clearly, they will also use a special mirror that has anti-fogging capabilities. All of these instruments are professionally cleaned and sanitized before each use.
Finally, the dental hygienist will use a polishing device along with prophylaxis paste to polish the teeth before you see the dentist for her or his part of the exam. This is a quick procedure, but they will go over every tooth to ensure a smooth surface all around before finishing their portion of the visit.
How Long Should I Plan for a Dental Cleaning?
The amount of time that a dental cleaning takes depends somewhat on the amount of plaque and tartar that have built up on a patient’s teeth since their last visit. If quite some time has passed, more removal will likely be necessary. However, dental cleanings usually last sometime between thirty minutes and one hour.