You might have heard the terms ‘polish’ and ‘scaling’ thrown around by your dentist or dental hygienist, but what do they even mean? And what is your dentist actually doing when they’re poking around inside your mouth anyhow?
We’ve come up with a simple step by step guide to a dental cleaning and check-up to help you understand exactly what’s going on when your dentist asks you to open wide.
Your dentist or dental hygienist will give your entire mouth a solid once over to ensure there are no problems that immediately stand out to them. This includes looking at your teeth, gums, the sides of your mouth, and your tongue with a mirror. If everything is okay to proceed and no major problems are spotted, your dentist or dental hygienist will proceed to the next step.
If you look at your teeth closely, you’ll likely see a build up of a hard white or grey substance around your gums and in between your teeth. What you’re seeing is a combination of plaque and tartar. Plaque forms first and is something you can manage through diligent flossing and brushing, but once it hardens into tartar, only your dentist or hygienist can remove it. When your dentist or hygienist scales your teeth, they use an instrument called a scaler to remove any plaque or tartar in order to keep your gums and teeth healthy and to prevent gingivitis.
This is the part of the cleaning process that makes the most noise (and therefore tends to inspire the most anxiety in patients). But there’s no need to fret! All your dentist or hygienist is doing during this step is brushing your teeth with a high powered electric toothbrush. This step is necessary to ensure that any plaque or tartar that might have been left behind during the scaling process is removed.
Yes, we all floss at home (or we’re supposed to anyway) but nothing beats a good thorough flossing from a professional. Your dentist or hygienist has a better view of your mouth and can deep clean spots that you might not be able to reach yourself. This expert flossing also ensures that any final missed bits of plaque, tartar, or toothpaste from the polish are completely removed.
Depending on your dentist or hygienist, there’s a good chance this step has already occurred at some point during your cleaning. Rinsing is essential to ensure that any potential bits of debris that might still be lingering in your mouth are flushed out.
This step isn’t always a requirement but it’s definitely one of the most memorable parts of your treatment. After choosing a flavour (typically mint or bubblegum), your dentist or hygienist will place a tray filled with either a foamy gel or a sticky paste-like substance over your teeth for about one minute. While it might feel a bit awkward, this fluoride treatment ensures your teeth are well protected against cavities for the next few months.
If your cleaning was performed by a hygienist, this is typically when your dentist will come in to give your mouth and teeth a final look over before giving you the okay to leave. In addition to examining your teeth, your dentist will also take a close look at and under your tongue to ensure there are no signs of oral cancer.