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What to Expect at a Regular Dental Cleaning

What to Expect at a Regular Dental Cleaning

Feeling anxious about visiting the dentist? Don’t worry – regular cleanings are anything to fear! You don’t have to dread your visit – knowing what to expect can make it easier. In this article by Dentists Connect, you’ll find out what happens during a typical dental cleaning.

Professional Dental Cleaning

Dental cleaning typically involves scraping away the plaque and tartar buildup on the teeth, polishing them to make them look brighter, and flossing in order to remove any remaining plaque or food particles between them. After this is completed, you may receive fluoride treatments to help strengthen tooth enamel and fight cavities. Following this procedure, your dentist may offer additional tests or treatments if necessary.


During a routine dental cleaning, your dentist may take X-rays of your mouth. This can help detect any potential issues before they become serious, such as cavities, gum disease, impacted teeth, or cysts. The frequency and kind of imaging required to depend on the condition of your teeth.

Dental X-rays expose you to a low level of radiation, which is well within safe limits. Your dentist will provide appropriate protection when they take these images to minimize your exposure even further. Depending on the purpose of an X-ray image, traditional ones may be taken or digital versions may be used that require less radiation for similar results. Both types are useful for identifying different areas in the mouth that might need attention from a dentist.

Fluoride Treatment

A fluoride treatment is a professional application of fluoride that helps to strengthen teeth and reduce the risk of cavities. This treatment may be done in the dental office or at home, depending on your individual needs.

In-office fluoride treatments are typically applied after a thorough cleaning and polishing to help re-mineralize weak spots on the tooth’s surface. The dentist or hygienist will apply a gel, foam, or varnish containing fluoride directly to the teeth. Usually, this takes only a few minutes per tooth and doesn’t require additional rinsing afterward.

Education and Advice

In addition to deep cleaning your teeth, a dental hygienist or dentist will often provide education and individualized advice. During the initial assessment, they may talk to you about any potential signs of gum disease, decay, or other developing problems. They’ll also take the time to show you how to brush and floss correctly and demonstrate the angle at which you should hold your brush when brushing.

Dental hygiene professionals are also usually willing to consult with you about issues that could arise throughout the year, such as temporary increases in sensitivity or a sudden onset of bad breath. Regular dental cleanings can be an ideal time to ask any questions that you have about oral health care, preventive measures, and over-the-counter products such as toothpaste or mouthwash. They can also recommend lifestyle changes that could help improve your oral health, such as quitting smoking or drinking sugary beverages in moderation.

Dental Sealants

Dental sealants are a preventive measure often used to help protect teeth from decay. The sealant is a thin plastic coating that is applied to the chewing or biting surfaces of the back teeth (molars and premolars). It seals out the bacteria and plaque that cause cavities, protecting vulnerable crevices, depressions, and grooves in those molars.

Sealants are usually applied during regular checkups or cleanings, but may also be performed on an individual basis.

Once applied, the sealant bonds to the tiny pits and grooves of your teeth creating a smooth surface that resists bacteria and plaque. A special light beam helps bond the sealant material to your teeth in order to form a protective shield against cavities. This process typically takes less than five minutes per tooth and can last up to 10 years before they need reapplication.

Oral Cancer Screening

Visiting the dentist for regular cleanings and checkups is an important part of maintaining good oral health, and these visits often include an oral cancer screening.

During an oral cancer screening, your dentist will use a special lighted instrument to look around your mouth, including underneath the tongue, for any signs of abnormalities that may indicate cancer. Your dentist may also manually feel around your neck and jawline for any inconsistencies in lymph nodes or other areas that may signal a potentially cancerous growth. Beyond just looking for visible indications, your dentist may also ask you about changes in your eating habits or inquire about symptoms like hoarseness or soreness that could be indicative of cancer.

Finally, if any abnormality is found during the screening process, you may be referred to an otolaryngologist (head and neck surgeon) or to a cancer specialist (oncologist) for further evaluation and potential treatment options. Early detection plays a huge role in successful outcomes with many forms of oral cancers and seeing your dentist regularly can help ensure they take note of anything concerning before it’s too late.

Nutritional Counseling

Eating healthy and maintaining good oral health are both essential components of overall well-being. During your dental cleaning appointment, your hygienist may provide you with nutritional counseling to help ensure that the foods and drinks you consume are contributing to an optimal oral health regimen.

Your hygienist may provide specific recommendations regarding how certain foods can lead to plaque buildup and tooth decay and how limiting sugar intake can promote better oral hygiene. Additionally, they may explain why it is beneficial to limit unhealthy snacking, maintain a balanced diet, and consume more foods that are high in calcium and other minerals.

Home Care Instructions

Now that you have had your regular dental cleaning, your dentist will recommend at-home care instructions to ensure your mouth stays healthy and to help prevent future problems from occurring. The most important part of oral care is brushing and flossing regularly, especially after eating. Proper brushing should include using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste recommended by your dentist to help protect the teeth from decay. To best remove plaque, brush in a circular motion with the brush angled slightly toward the gum line.

Flossing is an important component of the home care routine since it helps remove debris and plaque between teeth that a toothbrush can’t reach. Your dentist may suggest interdental cleaners such as wooden or plastic picks as well as pre-threaded flossers for bridgework or braces. When using traditional floss, gently slide the floss between each tooth making sure to go below the gum line for best results.

Rinsing with an alcohol-free mouthwash after brushing or flossing can also help reduce bad breath and fight bacteria growth in hard-to-reach areas of your mouth not accessed by brushing or flossing alone. Some products are even available with heightened levels of fluoride to help strengthen teeth and prevent decay. Be sure to read the label on any product you plan on using, following all directions carefully to avoid any adverse effects or reactions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I expect during a regular dental cleaning?

During a regular dental cleaning, your dentist will use tools to scrape away plaque and tartar buildup, floss your teeth, and polish your teeth with a special toothpaste. Your dentist may also take X-rays to look for any cavities or other abnormalities.

How often should I get a regular dental cleaning?

The American Dental Association recommends that you get regular dental cleaning and checkup at least twice a year. This helps to ensure that your teeth and gums stay healthy and free of plaque and tartar buildup.

Will I need any special preparation for a regular dental cleaning?

No special preparation is required for regular dental cleaning. However, it is important to brush and floss your teeth prior to the appointment to ensure that your dentist can effectively clean your teeth and check for any problems.


At the end of your dental cleaning appointment, your dentist will provide you with an overall assessment of your teeth and gums. This can include a thorough examination of cavities or signs of gum disease. If necessary, your dentist may recommend additional preventive treatments or therapies such as sealants, fluoride treatments, x-rays or other imaging procedures.

Your dentist may also offer advice to help you maintain optimal oral health moving forward. The goal is to keep your smile healthy and attractive long-term – regular dental cleanings are an essential component to achieving that goal!

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