Most people know that dental cleaning means a visit to the dental hygienist but there are actually three types of dental cleanings.

Twice a Year Cleaning

The twice a year cleaning came to be as a matter of preventative care. Seeing your dentist twice a year became excellent insurance to preventing big, expensive dental problems. This continues to be true unless you fall into the high-risk category of individuals.

Typically, this is what happens at your dental cleaning: You will fill out a health history or health history update form. Your hygienist will review this information and ask any pertinent questions. The hygienist will clean your teeth which involves removing built-up plaque and tartar on your teeth and below the gum lines. Then he/she will floss and polish your teeth. He/she will also look for any problems that the dentist should be made aware of.

If there are areas of concern, x-rays may be taken. X-rays can diagnose problems that cannot be seen by the human eye such as damage to jawbones, impacted teeth, abscesses, cysts or tumors, and decay between the teeth.

Once the hygienist is done the dentist may or may not come in to perform an examination (dependent on what the hygienist has found or whether the patient has any questions for the dentist). Typically an exam by the dentist is done once per year or as needed.
Once you are done you should pat yourself on the back because you have taken the initiative to take excellent care of your teeth!

Advanced Dental Cleanings

There are times in a person’s life where regular dental cleaning is not enough to take care of all the plaque and tartar on a person’s teeth. This is usually because they have not visited a dentist in many years.

Don’t be discouraged if you fall into this category. Once you rectify the situation, you can smile with pride and be very happy that you addressed your issues.

Debridement is the removal of large amounts of plaque and tartar (calculus) from your teeth. Calculus, more commonly known as tartar, is the result of plaque buildup that hardens (calcifies) on the teeth.

Once you brush your teeth, plaque begins to form on your clean teeth within 24 hours. Within two to three days, the plaque begins the calcification process, morphing into calculus (tartar). Once calculus (tartar) collects on your teeth in large quantities, it needs to be removed via the process known as debridement.

A dental hygienist will use an ultrasonic device to remove the calculus (tartar). The ultrasonic device incorporates a combination of high-frequency vibrations with water to extricate the calculus (tartar).

After the debridement procedure, your dentist will examine your teeth and determine which type of dental cleaning you will need. Remember that debridement removes all of the buildups so your dentist can see your teeth. Now the dentist needs to look at your teeth.

Periodontal Cleanings

Periodontal cleanings are actually a specific procedure performed by your dental hygienist to treat gum and periodontal disease.

How is periodontal disease diagnosed? While at the dentist, an instrument called a probe is used to measure the area around your teeth to see if you have any pocketing (the area between the tooth and gum where bacteria will form). The depth of the gum tissue between the teeth and gums is called pockets when it is five millimeters or more.

Measuring pocket depth is just one part of a comprehensive dental evaluation. Ideally, normal healthy pockets will be no more than 3 millimeters deep. If the pockets are greater than 5 millimeters, your dentist might prescribe a deep scaling and root planing appointment with the dental hygienist.

Scaling involves removing plaque and tartar from the surface of the teeth and from the pocket area between the teeth and gums. The other part of a periodontal cleaning is root planing. The dental hygienist will use a scaling instrument to remove plaque and tartar from the surface of the roots of your teeth.

A scaling and root planing procedure usually require a minimum of two visits as an appointment. A follow-up visit may be necessary to confirm that your gums and teeth are getting healthier and there is no pocket depth.

After this cleaning appointment, the bacteria in the pockets of the teeth will be removed and in the next few weeks, the gums should become healthier. Your teeth will be watched very closely and you may need to have cleanings every 3 to 4 months.

What happens if you forgo a debridement or a periodontal cleaning? Once bacteria, plaque, and tartar get below the gum line your issue is considered periodontal disease. Periodontal disease only progresses; it does not heal itself. There are many stages of periodontal disease. The final stage being the loss of teeth because your teeth are no longer connected to the gum tissue below the surface of your gum line. Loss of teeth can be repaired, but of course, dental cleanings including debridements and periodontal cleanings are less costly.

Dental hygiene can be confusing. If you have more questions, call or text our office. We can have one of our dental hygienists answer your questions.