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Step by Step Through a Dental Cleaning

Author: Ajaideep (AJ) Bassi

Dental cleanings are provided by dental hygienists who remove the plaque and tartar deposits that have built up on your teeth over time. Plaque is the sticky, soft film that contains millions of bacteria which can cause gum disease and tooth decay if not removed with daily brushing and flossing. Tartar (calculus), which is an accumulation of hard calcified deposits on your teeth, can also cause tooth decay.

The dental hygienist begins with an intra-oral examination of your teeth and gums to determine the general state of your oral health. Then, the hygienist will use specialized instruments to gently remove these deposits without causing harm to the teeth. A dental mirror is used to help inspect areas in the mouth. This helps with observing teeth and gums for signs of irritation, swelling, decay, tartar, or bleeding. The first tool that is generally used to clean teeth is an ultrasonic scaler. These scalers use ultrasound and vibrational energy to mechanically remove tartar and flush out loose debris with their simultaneous water spray.¹

Once the larger pieces of tartar have been dislodged, the dental hygienist will switch to finer hand-held instruments known as hand scalers. Each tooth is scaled individually to ensure that all tartar is removed. After this, the hygienist will “polish” the teeth using a slow-speed handpiece with a soft rubber cup and a gritty toothpaste-like solution known as prophy paste. In many instances, the hygienist may also apply fluoride as a final step in cleaning your teeth. Fluoride is used at the end to help strengthen teeth by repairing enamel to protect against tooth decay. For this treatment, the patient typically has the option to choose their flavor, such as an assortment of berry and mint flavors. Fluoride is typically applied to all surfaces of the teeth using a microbrush and patients are instructed to avoid eating or drinking for 30 minutes for after fluoride application.¹,²


[1] What Happens During a Teeth Cleaning? (2021, April 14). Retrieved from

[2] What To Expect During a Teeth Cleaning. (2019, November 18). Retrieved from

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