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What teeth cleanings look like at the dentist

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

We teach kids about cleaning their hands, their hair, and their play area, so it makes sense to teach them about getting their teeth cleaned at the dentist. But sitting in the dentist chair can be scary for some with all the strange tools, sounds, and prodding. Help ease your child’s fears by explaining why teeth cleanings are important and what will happen during their visit.

The importance of regular cleanings

Daily brushing and flossing stop plaque from building up and hardening into tarter, but once you have tarter it can only be removed at the dentist office. This is why in addition to a day-to-day oral care routine, teeth cleanings at the dentist every six months are important. You can also speak with the dentist at regular check-ups about anything related to teeth, like pain spots, how to better clean teeth, or what foods to avoid, to help address issues as they arise and before they turn into cavities or infections. If issues are neglected, they can develop into gum disease or other problems, which are linked to more serious health issues later in life.

What a dental cleaning looks like

Most of the time, a teeth cleaning is simple and painless. Over the course of about an hour, a dental hygienist cleans and polishes the nooks and crannies that our toothbrush and floss sometimes miss while you lay back in the patient chair.

4 basic steps:

  1. First, teeth, gums, tongue, and the inside of the cheeks will get a gentle examination using a small mirror. The dentist or hygienist are looking for healthy colors (think white teeth and pink gums), normal teeth and jaw development, and anything that is cause for concern, like dark spots, bumps, or sores.

  2. Next, along with the small mirror, the hygienist will use a tool called a scaler to gently scrape plaque and tarter along the gum line and in between teeth. You’ll hear a scraping sound, but this is normal.

  3. Then, the dental hygienist will use an electric toothbrush or ultrasonic dental tool to deep clean and polish teeth, removing any tartar left behind from the scaler. Usually, the hygienist will ask what flavor toothpaste you would like during this stage (bubblegum, please!).

  4. Lastly, the hygienist will floss teeth to deep clean between them and locate any trouble spots. If your child doesn’t normally floss, the gums may bleed a little, but this is nothing to be concerned about.

At the end of the cleaning, the hygienist or dentist may recommend a fluoride treatment, which takes less than one minute and helps protect teeth from cavities for several months. Once a year, the dentist will x-ray the mouth to see inside the teeth and make sure there are no problems he or she missed during the physical exam.

Setting kids up for good oral health

Going to the dentist for regular teeth cleanings and checkups is one of the best things we can do to educate children about maintaining good oral health. By visiting the dentist every six months, you are helping your child prevent cavities, root canals, gum disease, oral cancer, and other dental issues before they happen.

The more your child knows what to expect, the more they may look forward to their next visit. See you there!

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