What Is A Routine Dental Cleaning? A Dental Hygienist’s Perspective

Author: Shannon Sutton, RDH

Every 6 months you visit the dentist for your dental cleaning. You chat with the hygienist, go over health history and see the dentist to check and make sure there are no cavities. It all seems pretty routine but there is a lot that goes on during your appointment that you may not be aware of. Let’s break down the routine cleaning appointment and look at the different steps that occur.

First, we go over your medical history. You may not be aware but some medications and health conditions affect your teeth, gums and overall dental health and vice versa. There are side effects to medications that can cause dry mouth, altered taste, gingival swelling and so many more problems. Diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, nutritional deficiencies and conditions such as acid reflux can cause issues with your gums and teeth also. Dental hygienists mentally note these issues for later.

Second, radiographs might be taken. We can note early demineralization of teeth and cavities from these radiographs but they are also used to detect bone loss around teeth and abnormalities in tooth structure and in the bone. Dental hygienists use these radiographs to tell if periodontal disease has begun to destroy the bone in between teeth and detect calculus, also known as tartar, which is a hard build up that harbors bacteria and irritates your gums.

Next, we begin our intraoral exam. In this step, we evaluate teeth, prior restorations, gum health, and overall oral condition. Dental hygienists note color of gums, depth of pockets around teeth, points of bleeding gums, salivary flow, visible plaque and calculus along with areas of recession and gum defects. All of this occurs before the dental cleaning and may only take a few minutes but is all being done possibly without you even realizing.

During the dental prophylaxis, or cleaning, we remove any hard calculus and soft plaque deposits that may have accumulated on your teeth over the last 6 months. This helps to reduce the bacteria count in your mouth. Dental hygienists focus on reducing harmful bacteria in your mouth and restore overall health. We also give you tips on how to better clean these areas at home. One of our main concerns is to give you the ability to care for your mouth to PREVENT dental diseases. Lessening the bacterial load also helps your overall health. Some oral bacteria have now been associated with several serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, atherosclerosis, erectile dysfunction, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and several more. So when we give you advice about what to do to help with your oral health know that it could also help with your overall health as well. During this step we also do an oral cancer screening by visually looking at the entire inside of the mouth including the tongue, lips, roof of mouth, throat and cheeks.

When the dentist comes in, we are able to give him or her a detailed amount of information to help diagnose any possible problems. We follow up with a fluoride treatment that helps to remineralize teeth that acids in our diet have begun to break down.

There is a lot that goes into your routine cleaning and all of our dental hygienists at Spring Lake Dental Group are highly skilled in all of these aspects of oral care. Schedule your 6 month check-up with us now!