Everyone loves that fresh-from-the-dentist clean feeling, smooth teeth and a minty-fresh mouth after a professional dental cleaning are hard to resist.

Yet many patients still dread these cleanings and avoid them, despite the fact that they are typically simple and painless.

In fact, dental cleanings will only result in pain and discomfort if you aren’t having them often enough, or aren’t practicing good dental hygiene at home. 

What Happens During a Dental Cleaning, Anyway?

Everyone feels apprehensive about things they don’t fully understand, and sometimes dental cleanings can just seem like a whirlwind of tools and procedures that you can’t see going on in your mouth.

Be aware of the steps to professional teeth cleanings, and feel at ease during your next appointment with the dental hygienist.

1 - Examination

Your hygienist will use small mirrors and a light to examine your teeth and mouth, identifying problem areas and offering tips for better brushing and flossing habits at home.

This also gives your hygienist an opportunity to spot any major concerns that the dentist might need to address.

2 - Plaque and Tartar Removal

Using small mirrors and scalers, your hygienist will now scrape off any plaque and tartar buildup on your teeth.

Teeth are scraped individually, which can be a little unpleasant but should not be painful if your teeth and gums are healthy.

Plaque can be removed by brushing, but once it hardens into tartar only a professional cleaning will remove it.

The better your home brushing and flossing habits are, the less tartar buildup you will have and the less time your hygienist will spend on this step. 

3 - Gritty Polishing

Using a special high-powered electric brush and gritty toothpaste, the hygienist will polish each tooth.

This is the step that makes that well-known grinding noise, but it isn’t painful. Polishing this way is safe at your dentist’s office twice a year, but is more abrasive than home brushing.

This is where that super-smooth, fresh feeling comes from that everyone loves to go home with. 

4 - Professional Flossing

Your hygienist will now floss your teeth for you, which may seem redundant if you floss at home but is actually a necessary step.

It will safely remove any plaque or debris left from previous steps, and also offers a deeper flossing experience as the hygienist gets a much clearer (and well-lit) view of your mouth than you can achieve yourself.

It also will help to identify any problem areas for flossing, such as gums that bleed in certain spots or teeth that are tightly stuck together and make flossing a challenge.

Your hygienist will offer you tips for getting around these concerns when you brush and floss at home. 

5 - Rinse and Fluoride

You will now rinse your mouth thoroughly to get debris and leftover materials out of your mouth, and proceed with a fluoride treatment.

Depending on your needs, this may be in the form of a rinse that you swish for a given amount of time, or a tray that you nest onto your teeth with fluoride paste contained inside.

Fluoride is a vital part of good dental health, and while your water and home toothpastes may be fluoridated, professional fluoride treatments go a long way to protect your teeth from decay and weakness. 

All done!

After these simple steps, you can go home and enjoy running your tongue over those pearly whites. Just remember to schedule your next cleaning according to your hygienist’s recommendations, to ensure the next one is as easy as can be.