The American Dental Association and dentists everywhere recommend coming in for a professional dental cleaning, every six months for optimal dental health. The truth is that there is more to the visit to the dentist than just getting your teeth cleaned. There are specific things that both the hygienist and the dentist do that benefit your dental health for their own reasons. To help everyone understand the importance of professional cleanings, here is an explanation of what happens during a typical visit.

The Hygienist's Duties

A dental hygienist is responsible for the dental cleansings, so they are often the person who brings you back into the dental chair. The first stop is usually to get x-rays done. These are important to giving a more complete picture on the health of the teeth. A large portion of the tooth is under the gum tissue and the roots are an important part of the tooth structure.

Scraping Plaque and Tartar . This is the most important step of the dental cleaning. No one likes having their teeth scraped, but that is the only way to remove plaque and tartar from your teeth. Plaque is a sticky, yellow substance that builds up along the gum line and sides of teeth. It traps bacteria against the tooth surface, causing cavities. When the plaque fits for too long, it hardens into a brown layer on the tooth called tartar. This is harder to remove and indicates more serious damage.

Polishing. After your teeth are clear of plaque and tartar, the hygienist will polish your teeth. This helps to remove any lingering plaque from your teeth and scrub away surface stains with a motorized tool. Through the process, you will be rinsed and suctioned to remove particles and grittiness left behind.

The Dentist

With fresh, clean teeth, your teeth are now ready for the dentist to come in. Before beginning their duties, a dentist will ask if there are any areas of your mouth that are bothering you and ask you to point them out. Afterward, the dentist will do a three-part examination.

1. Visual Check. With all the plaque, tartar, and surface stains removed, the dentist has a clear view of the condition of your teeth. It is also during this visual check that they will check for signs of oral cancer, infections, or anything abnormal.

2. Thorough Exam. Using a mirror and hook, the dentist will go over your teeth, checking for weak spots and cavities. As they look through your mouth, notes will be made out loud for the hygienist or dental assistant to write down and add to the chart.

Review X-rays. To get the complete picture of your mouth, the dentist will look over your x-rays to make sure that they do not see any problems with the roots or areas they can not see visually.

Before the dentist leaves, they will stop and make sure you do not have any questions or concerns with the health of your mouth. To complete the visit, you will usually do some sort of fluoride treatment and review any changes you need to make to your home dental care routine. This will help you keep your clean teeth for as long as possible until your next visit in six months.

Dental cleaning visits are a great supplement to supporting your healthy oral routine at home. Very little goes on in a dental cleaning that you can do at home by yourself. It's so important for your to regularly visit the dentist chair for a thorough, professional cleaning.