Regular Teeth Cleanings: What to expect & why they’re important

Regular Teeth Cleanings:  What to expect & why they're important

There’s no need to fear the dentist, especially if you’re consistent about scheduling your cleanings. Here, I’ll walk you through what to expect at your next cleaning step by step.

Regular dental visits consist of two parts—a regular check-up and cleaning (prophylaxis).

The check-up

A dental check-up includes possible x-rays to detect cavities in between your teeth. During a clinical exam, the dentist or hygienist checks for cavities that cannot be seen on the radiographs, or results of your x-rays.

Gum health is checked with an instrument that goes around gaps between your teeth and gums. Healthy gums have shallow gaps and pink color. If there is any disease present, the gap between the tooth and gum gets deeper and may bleed upon provocation. However, bleeding should not discourage you from brushing or flossing—good oral hygiene is the most important factor for good oral health.

During your visit, your dentist may also perform an oral cancer screening by carefully examining your tongue, palate, cheeks, head and neck.

The cleaning

Bacteria forms a layer around your gums and teeth at first, known as plaque. Plaque can be easily removed with proper brushing and flossing. If plaque is not removed through regular oral hygiene, this layer can harden to form a calcified layer. This harder layer is known as tartar, and it cannot be removed with a toothbrush or floss.

Tartar can cause oral diseases, including cavities and gum disease. It is important to remove this layer early through a proper cleaning at the dental office. Cleaning your teeth can be performed with hand instruments, brush, floss and/or a mechanical cleaner. This special tools help remove plaque and, more importantly, tartar.

Once your teeth are clean, they are polished using a rubber cup and paste to remove stains and plaque. At this point, fluoride is applied to your teeth. Fluoride is absorbed in your teeth and provides long-term protection against plaque.

Regular dental check-ups are important. It allows us to remove any tartar buildup, to check for cavities, monitor your gum health and note any changes in your overall oral health. It is highly recommended to have at least two regular dental visits every year. The number of visits can be decreased or increased depending on your health.

Making oral hygiene a priority helps prevent further problems such as tartar and decay. If you haven’t seen your dentist in the last six months, call and schedule a cleaning today. If you don’t have dentist or would like more information, contact Marshall Dentistry & Oral Surgery at 304-691-1247.


Malav Shah, DDS

Dr. Shah is an assistant professor in the department of dentistry, oral & maxillofacial surgery at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and a general dentist with Marshall Dentistry & Oral Surgery. He earned his dentistry degree from the West Virginia University School of Dentistry.