Dental Cleaning

We all know the feeling of squeaky clean teeth when we walk out of our dental cleaning appointment, but have you ever wondered what exactly your hygienist is doing in there? A lot goes into a dental cleaning, perhaps more than you even expect. Here is what really happens during a dental cleaning:


In the dental field, prevention is key. That is why we emphasize x-rays, take a myriad of notes, ask questions, and chart all those random numbers. We assess each patient thoroughly, and with a number of different aspects of oral health to consider. Before your dental hygienist even begins the cleaning, they have an arsenal of information to use as they help you maintain oral health:

Health History: It may seem random that we have each patient fill out a comprehensive health history and update it at each visit, but it is very important! Oral and Systemic disease go hand in hand, and have a direct impact on each other.

X-Rays: Dental X-Rays don’t just show cavities. We can see how healthy the bone is that holds the tooth in, which can tell us how healthy your periodontium (the gums and bone surrounding the teeth) is. Hygienists use these x-rays to make a diagnosis on periodontal health, to know just how to care for your teeth for longevity and health.

Periodontal Chart: Have you heard your hygienist calling off numbers as they look at your gums? These numbers are a way that the hygienist measures your periodontal health, or in other words the health of the gums and bone surrounding the teeth.

Visual Assessment: The dental hygienist does a visual assessment of the gums and oral tissue to look for any concerning areas.

The hygienist also watches and feels for any tartar buildup on the teeth. Altogether, the assessment allows the hygienist to make a treatment plan for what specific type of “cleaning” would be best for the patient.

Types of Dental Cleaning

Every dental cleaning is as unique as the patient sitting in the chair.

Prophylaxis: This is what comes to mind when most think of a “dental cleaning”. A “prophy” is the removal of any plaque, tartar or calculus buildup, and stain on the tooth crown and under the gums with dental instruments. Polishing the teeth follows, to smooth and shine the teeth and remove any residual plaque. A “prophy” is for orally healthy patients. This type of cleaning is to help the patient maintain their health, and prevent oral disease resulting from buildup on the teeth. A prophylactic cleaning is recommended every 6 months, to maintain the health of the periodontium.

Periodontal Maintenance: A periodontal (or “perio”) maintenance cleaning is for a patient with periodontal disease. Because of bone and gum loss, there is more tooth and root surface collecting plaque and tartar, in turn compromising the periodontium more. This type of cleaning is performed every 3 months, to rid the teeth of disease-causing plaque and tartar buildup and help the mouth maintain the bone and gum levels it still has.

Scaling and Root Planing: People often call this a “deep clean”. Scaling and Root Planing is performed when a patient has a significant amount of tartar buildup and/or active disease. The mouth is divided into quadrants, with one quadrant cleaned at a time by the hygienist. Because this is a more significant cleaning, the patients are often numbed.

Regular dental cleanings are the best way to maintain gum and bone health. Plaque and tartar buildup directly cause gum disease, and unfortunately the best possible brushing at home cannot clean under the gums like a dental hygienist can. For your best oral health, call us today at (509)822-5614 to schedule a dental cleaning and exam.