What Happens When You Come in for a Cleaning?
A regular dental checkup is one of the most important steps to maintaining your oral health. If you’re not seeing your dentist on a regular basis, you’re putting yourself at risk for experiencing oral health complications like periodontists and cavities. Prevention is the best medicine and your dentist can help you prevent those things from happening through regular checkups. So, what exactly can you expect from a regular cleaning? It’s not as intense or complicated as some dental procedures, but it’s just as important. When you come into our office, you’ll typically work with two different dental professionals—the dental hygienist and the dentist.
What to Expect from the Hygienist
The first person you’ll see at the dentist’s office is the dental hygienist. Working with this trained professional takes up most of the time at your checkup. The hygienist will walk through each of these steps with you:
- Visual Check – Before you get to the cleaning, the dental hygienist will typically perform a quick visual check of your gums and teeth. If anything stands out as looking wrong, the hygienist will take a mental note and inform the dentist.
- Cleaning – Cleaning is the most important part of preventing oral health complications from happening to you. As time passes, you can start to accumulate tartar—a hard film of bacteria—on the surface of your teeth. Tartar can lead to cavities and gum disease. Your dental hygienist will scrape the tartar from your teeth using specialized dental tools, which are the only tools able to remove tartar properly.
- Polishing – After the dental hygienist has finished removing the tartar from your teeth, he or she will start the polishing process. Polishing your teeth helps remove any leftover plaque and can even remove light surface stains. The hygienist coats your teeth with an abrasive substance and then uses a motorized tool to scrub away the stains. Once you’re done, you are given the opportunity to rinse out your mouth to get rid of any gritty leftovers.
- Prevention – Once your teeth and gums are all clean, your dental hygienist will take some time to talk about the things you should be doing at home to prevent oral health complications. Typically, the dental hygienist will have identified areas in your mouth that need work and try to focus on those areas during this discussion. For example, if you are having a hard time flossing, the hygienist will teach you how to better floss. Pay attention during this portion of your visit, especially if you’re not entirely comfortable with your routine. Think of questions you can ask, and ask them! Your dental hygienist should be more than comfortable answering any questions you have.
- X-rays – The last thing your hygienist may perform is a full set of X-rays on your teeth. This doesn’t happen during every checkup, and it’s up to your dentist on whether or not they will be taken. However, if this is your first checkup with a new dentist, you can be fairly sure that the dental hygienist will take X-rays for the office’s records.
What to Expect from the Dentist
After your dental hygienist is done with his or her part, you will wait for the dentist to come in and finish the checkup. The role your dentists plays is typically short when it comes to regular checkups, but just as important.
- Visual Check – Just like the hygienist, your dentist will look over your teeth and gums, making sure everything is in good order. If your hygienist noticed something during the initial check, your dentist will double check to see if it’s a problem or not.
- Check for Cavities – After the initial visual check, your dentist uses tools to probe your teeth and check for cavities. He or she will also review your X-rays to check for more cavities and other possible problems.
- Consultation – The consultation is the time to ask your dentist questions or voice concerns about your oral health. While the dentist typically has other patients to attend to, he or she usually takes some time to answer any questions you have. Use this time wisely to really get to know your mouth so you can learn how to better take care of it.
After the Cleaning
Now that you know what to expect from a cleaning, you can go home after the appointment and truly take care of your teeth in the best manner possible. Be sure to follow what the hygienist and dentist have told you about your mouth specifically so you can tailor your oral hygiene to your specific needs.