What to Expect From a Dental Hygiene Visit
Posted: June 24, 2020
Last Modified: March 19, 2021
For many people, their first introduction to dental services is through a dental cleaning. Newcomers to the dentist may wonder why cleaning is necessary in the first place. After all, isn’t that what brushing and flossing at home do? A dental cleaning provides your teeth with a much more thorough clean than you could obtain on your own at home and can reach places on your teeth that you don’t know about or may be unable to access.
There are several stages to a professional dental cleaning. Understanding the purpose of each one will help you prepare for your next visit, and it’ll allow you a better appreciation of the importance of regular dental attention.
The Initial Exam
The first part of every dental cleaning involves a visual inspection of each tooth and your gum line. This is usually done with a small round mirror, and the idea is to identify any problem areas that might need to be addressed first. For example, if your gums are severely irritated, or if there’s a particularly nasty cavity, the dentist will likely need to be called in to evaluate the situation. Once the dental hygenist determines that everything is in good order, the cleaning can begin.
Scaling, Polishing, and Flossing
When plaque isn’t removed from the teeth with regular brushing and flossing, it hardens into tartar. This next stage of the cleaning removes all that built-up tartar. With a small tool called a scaler, the hygienist will remove any buildup of plaque and tartar from your teeth, including around your gum line. Many people recognize this stage of the process by the scraping sound they hear. Don’t worry – that sound is normal, and your teeth aren’t being harmed.
When the tartar and plaque are gone, you’ll then receive a good ol’ fashioned electric toothbrush cleaning with a special toothpaste. The toothpaste has fine grit in it to gently polish your teeth and help remove any bits of plaque and tartar. At our dental office in Barrie, we go one step further and provide our patients with air polishing, which is where tiny particles are propelled onto the teeth by air and water pressure for a good, thorough, disinfecting clean. We also irrigate below the gums with a bacterial rinse.
Finally, the hygienist will floss your teeth. In addition to making your teeth completely clean, this will also allow them to assess whether or not you have any gum problems or any tooth damage that was hiding under the plaque. With a final rinse, your teeth will be perfectly clean and ready for fluoride.
The Importance of Fluoride
If you haven’t heard of it before, fluoride is a mineral, and it’s a key part of your dental services, especially cleaning. When fluoride mixes with your saliva, it’s able to penetrate your tooth enamel, making the enamel stronger and better able to fight off decay. If you live in a city, you might already be getting a small dose of tooth-protecting fluoride from the community water system.
For children, the last step of the cleaning process is to apply fluoride to the teeth. This can be done in several ways, although the most common is with a gel or a paste in a mouthguard, which is placed onto the teeth and left there for a minute to let the fluoride have a chance to meet up with the enamel. They might also have a fluoride varnish painted onto each tooth.
Children will receive a fluoride touch-up at every cleaning, which helps protect their teeth (and can even reverse early tooth decay) until they arrive for the next bi-annual cleaning.
The Dentist’s Exam
After your teeth are shiny, clean, and well-protected, the dentist will sit down with you to conduct a final review. They’ll examine the state of your teeth and the health of your gums, including the depth of your gum pockets (deeper pockets can present an increased chance of infection or gum inflammation). After they’ve finished examining your mouth, they’ll inform you of any additional treatment that may be required.
Our examinations are a lot more comprehensive than what has traditionally been performed at dental hygiene visits, and you’ll notice the difference immediately. In addition to updating your medical histories (now available online!), we will make sure you don’t have any symptoms or concerns to report. We also perform a thorough examination that allows us to perform a risk assessment in four separate categories of your mouth: the gums, the teeth, the jaw joints and bite, and finally, the aesthetics.
By providing you with a risk assessment, we can actually give you an idea of what lies ahead in the future as opposed to just reacting to what has already happened or broken in your mouth. This in turn allows us to prescribe easier, and better preventive treatment that will also cost you less! You can read more about our risk assessment here.
Schedule Your Cleaning: Barrie Dental Services
Regular dental hygiene visits are essential for good oral health since they’re often the first line of defense against disease and decay and are typically your first alert that something may be wrong. It’s recommended to have two dental cleanings every year (once every six months). Remember, preventive dentistry isn’t just about your mouth. Oral health is strongly linked to your overall physical health and can affect everything from your cardiovascular system to your risks of developing diseases or health complications later in life.