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What to Expect From Your Next Teeth Cleaning Appointment

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Having your teeth professionally cleaned is an important part of your oral hygiene routine. You should have your teeth professionally cleaned periodically. While most people should have their teeth professionally cleaned every six months, your dentist may suggest you come in more or less frequently depending on your unique dental needs. Most dental cleaning appointments are bundled with a dental exam, which allows your dentist to check your teeth and gums for signs of disease, decay, and oral cancer. Your dentist will also review your medical history and review any new prescriptions.

How Long Do Teeth Cleanings Take?

Depending on how much work needs to be done, your dental cleaning is usually scheduled for 60 minutes. However, since a dental exam also accompanies most cleanings, you should budget for up to two hours. This will also give you plenty of time to fill out any necessary paperwork.

How Much Does a Teeth Cleaning Cost?

Your final dental bill is determined by several factors, including the cost of each service and how long each service took. To find out exactly how much your dentist charges for specific services you should speak to your dental practice and get an estimate before your appointment.

You should also ask about how your benefits will be handled, whether direct billing is offered, and for any other relevant financial details.

What Happens During The Appointment?

Most professional teeth cleanings follow a similar pattern and are performed by a dental hygienist. Professional teeth cleanings are typically paired with a dental exam and an oral cancer exam, which can be performed by either your dentist or your dental hygienist. Before your dental hygienist begins, they will review your medical history with you and ensure it is up to date.


Your dental hygienist will begin your cleaning by removing any plaque or calculus that has built up along your gum line and between your teeth. This is done using a small mirror (so the hygienist can have a clear view of hard-to-see spots) and a variety of dental instruments including a hand scaler or an ultrasonic scaler. An ultrasonic scalar uses water to disrupt the biofilm and bacteria that has collected on and around your teeth, providing a more thorough cleaning than a hand scaler alone. As such, many dental practices now use both an ultrasonic scaler and a hand scaler.

The amount of calculus that has built up on your teeth since your last professional cleaning will determine how long this portion of the cleaning will take.

Calculus can only be removed by a dentist or dental hygienist using specialized tools. Calculus forms when plaque is allowed to sit on your teeth and harden. Plaque is a transparent, sticky film made up of bacteria that feed on the sugars found in foods left behind in our mouths. Plaque can easily be removed at home by flossing and brushing, which is why you should floss at least once per day and brush your teeth at least twice per day.

Professional Polishing

Once all of the calculus has been removed from between your teeth, and below your gum line, your dental hygienist may polish your teeth with a high powered handpiece and a special gritty tooth polish. Insurance companies may or may not cover the cost of tooth polishing, so you should check your benefits package.

Depending on your unique dental needs, your dental hygienist will use a fine, medium, or coarse grit tooth polish.

This intense polishing is an excellent way to deep clean your mouth, but it should be done sparingly. Having your teeth professionally polished too often can damage your enamel. Your dental hygienist will be able to tell you how often you should have your teeth professionally polished.

Expert Flossing

While daily, at-home flossing is an integral part of your oral hygiene routine, a professional flossing is a great way to really get into those hard-to-reach places. Your dental hygienist can get down deep between your teeth, and their particular vantage point means that they can spot trouble spots more easily than you can.

This professional flossing also helps remove any leftover plaque or polish from the expert polishing session.


Your dental hygienist will now give your mouth a thorough rinse. This ensures that any plaque, calculus, or polish that may remain is washed away.

Fluoride Treatment

The final step of professional teeth cleaning is the fluoride treatment. Fluoride fortifies your teeth against decay, and can actively fight cavities for up to several months. Two types of fluoride treatment are used at Southgate Dental: fluoride gel and fluoride varnish.

ride treatment. Fluoride fortifies your teeth against decay, and can actively fight cavities for up to several months. Two types of fluoride treatment are used at Southgate Dental: fluoride gel and fluoride varnish.

  • Fuoride gel is used to fill a mouthpiece that is then fitted over your teeth and left for between one and four minutes. This gel is available in a variety of flavours, so your dental hygienist will typically ask you which flavour you would prefer and provide you with a suction to assist you during this procedure. Once the gel is removed, your dental hygienist will have you spit out the gel. To ensure you get the full benefit of the fluoride gel treatment, you should refrain from eating or drinking for up to 30 minutes after your appointment.
  • Fluoride varnish is painted onto your teeth using a small brush and hardens when it comes in contact with saliva. Since it hardens right away, you can eat and drink right after your varnish has been applied. Fluoride varnish is more effective than fluoride gel: It remains active for hours, and its effects last for months, as opposed to the fluoride gel, which is only active for a few minutes. Since it is significantly more effective, fluoride varnish is now the standard of care and the choice most often used at Southgate Dental.

What Results Can I Expect?

Nothing beats that freshly-cleaned feeling. Now that your teeth are free of plaque and calculus, you may notice that your smile look a little more polished than usual. Your teeth will not feel smooth immediately after your fluoride varnish, but they will feel smoother the next day.

The varnish may also be slightly tinted, temporarily altering the colour of your teeth. However, this tint will fade as the varnish wears away over the next few hours.

A freshly cleaned smile is a blank slate, and now that the professional cleaning is over, it is time for you to take over. By brushing your teeth for at least two minutes, twice per day, and flossing thoroughly at least once per day, you can help keep your smile clean, white, and healthy. While professional teeth cleaning can make a big difference, it isn’t a substitute for other dental procedures and services. To help you get the smile you have always dreamed of Southgate Dental offers a variety of services including esthetic dentistry (including teeth whitening), orthodontics, Invisalign, and restoration dentistry as well as dental implants and dentures.

Written by Dr. Kevin Hamm

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