What is a dental cleaning?

Be sure to add a dental visit to this year's spring cleaning list. A professional dental cleaning at least twice a year can improve your oral health, reports the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), an organization of general dentists dedicated to continuing dental education.

The AGD strongly recommends that a dentist or hygienist perform a dental cleaning every six months. This professional dental cleaning reinforces the home-care oral health regimen of brushing and flossing and gives the dentist an opportunity to locate areas in the mouth that may need special attention.

People who regularly practice good oral hygiene at home with proper brushing and flossing techniques typically do not experience discomfort during a cleaning. However, those who have neglected their oral hygiene habits may experience some discomfort or sensitivity during a dental cleaning. The dentist can use a topical anesthetic before the cleaning to alleviate any discomfort.

During a dental cleaning, you’ll receive diagnostic and preventive services from your dentist as well as any needed educational information.

Diagnostic services may include:

  • Reviewing and updating medical history, including information about heart problems, pregnancy, diabetes and medications, which may have an impact on your oral health
  • Oral cancer examination and screening
  • Evaluation of gum tissue
  • Checking biting, chewing and swallowing patterns
  • X-rays or examination of teeth to detect decay
  • Referral to specialists for specific treatment

Preventive services may include:

  • Removal of plaque and tartar
  • Stain removal
  • Fluoride application
  • Sealants (for children)
  • Polishing teeth, including fillings and crowns
  • Cleaning and adjustment of dentures and partial dentures

Educational services may include:

  • Tooth brushing and flossing instructions
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Recommendations for future treatment: when to return for follow-up hygiene treatment, periodontal (gum) concerns or restorative options
  • Evaluation of self-care effectiveness
  • Tobacco-cessation counseling
Source: Spring Clean Your Teeth Academy of General Dentistry
Last updated:April 2009

The oral health information on this web site is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.

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