Find out what’s involved when you get your teeth professionally cleaned.
A professional teeth cleaning service is done by a qualified dentist, hygienist, oral health therapist or gum specialist known as a periodontist. These expert clinicians are trained to use the right equipment and technique to safely and effectively remove stain and hardened bacteria that accumulates around your teeth and underneath your gums. If left untreated and in place, this trapped bacteria can cause the bone that holds your teeth in place to be lost. This condition is known as periodontitis.
Health authorities recommend brushing twice a day and flossing once a day to remove soft plaque and debris that build up throughout the day. Sugar and acid feed the bacteria found in the mouth which can then lead to tooth decay.
What daily brushing and flossing can’t do well is remove the hard buildup of minerals and bacteria found in your saliva known as calculus or tartar which cements itself to your teeth slowly over time. This can only be safely removed during professional teeth cleaning appointments.
If this hard buildup is left too long on the surface of your teeth, and under the gumline in the natural pocket between your teeth and gums, you may develop periodontitis. A condition three out of ten Australian adults are currently living with, often unknowingly. The result of not treating periodontitis, or active gum disease, is the loss of teeth. For the remainder of the population, the more common gum disease gingivitis will occur.
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How often you should visit the dentist for routine teeth cleaning will depend on your current level of gum health, any risk factors relating to medical conditions and family genetic and lifestyle choices such as diet and smoking and other recreational habits that may impact your overall health. As a general guide, it is recommended by the Australian Dental Association and dental industry professionals that people maintain six-monthly intervals, unless otherwise recommended by the dentist. This allows small issues to be fixed before they become expensive and painful.
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The cost of a professional teeth cleaning will vary depending on your level of gum disease. According to the Australian Dental Association, if you visit the dentist for teeth cleaning every six months, and your gums are nice and healthy, you can expect to pay between $95 – $270 for a routine tooth cleaning. If you have developed periodontitis, and require a deep gum cleaning, this will cost on average from $320 for a mild case up to $1460 for chronic severe gum disease to treat – or even more in some circumstances.
During a visit for professional teeth cleaning the dentist or trained oral health professional will use a variety of tools, equipment and products to remove the hard calcium build-up that has accumulated on your teeth and below the gum line over time. This process also includes removing any brown staining on the tooth surface. They will also run through proper home care instructions so that you can maintain a healthier mouth at home between visits and reduce your risk of developing dental disease.
After routine teeth cleaning you will most likely be advised that you can eat straight away. If you have been advised to postpone eating or drinking for a short period of time this is often due to a remineralising or strengthening product having been applied to the teeth, such as fluoride gel or a varnish to help with areas of sensitivity, or you have been administered with local anaesthetic (numbing injection) to make the teeth cleaning or deep gum therapy treatment comfortable and pain-free. Always follow the direction of your dental professional to avoid causing damage to your soft tissue and to get the maximum benefit from the treatment you’ve received.
Patients often notice their teeth feel different and weird after a professional teeth cleaning because the hard calcium building has been removed from the surface of the tooth. This hard calcium build-up accumulates over time, bit by bit. Because of this, the stain, tartar, and hard bacteria that builds up between the teeth and around the gum line tends to go unnoticed.
Secondly, because this hard build-up is impossible to remove with a regular toothbrush or mouthwash, even though you may brush 2 – 3 times a day, your mouth just gets used to the feeling of having it there every day. Once removed by a dental professional you notice the gaps between your teeth and a smooth polished tooth surface. To your tongue, this can feel very weird. In a few days, you will become used to this new fresh clean feel and be counting down the days until your next professional teeth cleaning.
Too many people avoid the dentist due to fear of pain and discomfort during the appointment. However, what is often unknown is that nowadays dental professionals work hard to reduce sensitivity during your visit by using the correct equipment suited to your treatment needs, offering numbing gel that wears off by the time your appointment ends or administering local anaesthetic to the area they are working on should you require deep gum therapy.
The most common complaint during routine teeth cleaning appointments is sensitivity from the cold water and air used by the dental team to remove the hard bacteria that has built up over time. Simple solutions can include asking for the dentist or hygienist to use hand instruments only, begin using specialised toothpaste at home designed to improve sensitivity and as odd as it may seem – attending the dentist for more regular teeth cleaning to reduce the amount of treatment needed each time.
It is not routine for the dentist or dental professional to numb your mouth for routine teeth cleaning appointments. However, If you suffer from sensitivity or anxiety during a teeth cleaning appointment, or you require a deep clean below the gum line due to active gum disease-causing bone damage, you most certainly can request to have your teeth and gums numbed prior to starting treatment. Dental practices may charge a small fee to cover their time and cost of the numbing agent, which could be either in gel form and placed around the margin of the tooth where it meets the gum giving you a short numbing effect, or regular local anaesthetic – the same you would have for a filling or other general dental care.
You should expect a routine professional dental cleaning appointment to take 30minutes to 1 hour. The length of time will depend on your gum health and amount of staining however if you attend the dentist every six months, or as recommended by your oral health professional, this will help to maintain shorter appointments as there is less build-up to remove. If you avoid teeth cleaning and you develop gum disease known as periodontitis you may require longer appointments to treat this active disease before moving on to a maintenance regime.
Teeth cleaning will remove yellow and brown stains that have built up on the tooth surface over time. Staining is most often caused from smoking, tea and coffee and soft drinks. This type of staining can be easily removed by your oral health professional. Teeth that have become discoloured due to aging or internal damage to the tooth causing it to become dark will not change colour with a routine teeth cleaning. This type of colour change may require teeth whitening treatment or porcelain veneers or crowns to reach the desired white colour.
Unfortunately, tartar, also known as calculus, is a hard calcium build up that accumulates on the tooth surface and below the gum around the neck of the teeth over time. Removing this hard bacteria is difficult and requires specialised equipment to prevent damaging the outer layer of the tooth or your gums. It is not advised to remove tartar at home and to seek care from a dental professional for pain-free and effective teeth cleaning.