Professional Cleaning & Scaling
go for a dental checkup every 6-12 months
without really understanding what is involved.
Dentists recommend regular cleaning
appointments, but fail to explain why brushing
and flossing are not enough. We hope this page
provides you a better understanding of what goes
on during a regular appointment.
appointment should run you no more than 30
minutes to an hour. Since the procedure is
essentially painless, you will rarely receive
anesthesia - if you are feeling anxious though,
your dentist can provide nitrous oxide, or
“laughing gas”. Nitrous oxide is a gaseous drug
that does not alleviate pain, but calms your
mind and allows the procedure to continue
regular appointment your dentist will do four
essential things: dental checkup, scaling,
polishing, followed by a fluoride treatment for
some qualifying patients.
dental checkup, your dentist will be on the
lookout for various ailments – both inside and
outside the mouth. Since oral health is linked
to the body’s general health, dentists are
trained to notice early signs of systemic
disease even while you are still just getting
comfortable in the dental chair.
dentist will take note of any enlarged lymph
nodes in the head and neck region, as this is a
sign of infection spreading through the body.
Discolored facial skin can be indicative of
liver dysfunction. An enlarged thyroid that the
patient considers “normal” might actually be the
result of hyper or hypothyroidism. Without going
through the entire list, it is clear that a
dental checkup begins before you have even
opened your mouth.
the regular health questions, your dentist will
likely sit you back in the chair and look inside
your mouth. Your dentist is examining your teeth
for decay (which may require x-ray confirmation)
but that is just the beginning. Dentists are
trained to examine your gums, palate, tongue,
lymph nodes, and check for a host of conditions.
Many diseases are unique to the mouth (oral
cancer, gingivitis, periodontitis, etc), while
many systemic diseases manifest themselves in
the mouth (diabetes, herpes, leukemia, etc) –
your dentist is trained to diagnose both
general dental checkup goes beyond examining the
health of your teeth, though that itself can be
the checkup finds everything to be within a
normal range, your dentist will likely begin
scaling your teeth. In many dental offices, the
dental hygienist does this step with the dentist
checking the completed work. So what exactly is
teeth scaling and why do you need it?
disregard brushing for a day, you will notice a
“fuzzy” film on your teeth surface – this is
plaque. Dental plaque is the accumulation of
bacteria that have adhered to your tooth
surface. Regular brushing and scaling can easily
get rid of most of this plaque – but not all of
it. Plaque resides in the pocket that exists
between your gums and teeth, as well as
hard-to-reach areas that your toothbrush misses.
dental scaling. Most scaling treatments
are painless and do not require
days, this plaque hardens or “calcifies” and is
now termed calculus or “tartar”.
Dental calculus cannot be removed by regular
brushing or flossing – only a dentist’s scaling
instruments can remove the bacterial colony.
Even those of us who practice the best oral
hygiene methods will have some calculus and this
is what underlines the general recommendation to
have a dental cleaning every 6-12 months.
Dental calculus, much like dental plaque,
greatly increases the odds of dental decay.
scaling procedure, sharp scaling instruments are
run inside the pockets that exist between your
gums and teeth to remove the calculus. Your
gingival tissue should never come in contact
with the instrument. The procedure is painless,
but in patients with poor hygiene, the calculus
may be so great that the gums are sensitized and
bleed with minimal contact. For these patients,
your dentist may opt to provide local anesthesia
to prevent pain sensation.
dental polishing. This is done almost
always after the scaling procedure.
the scaling, many dentists polish the teeth.
While not as critical as scaling, polishing
simply provides that fresh-from-the-dentist
feeling that many people associate with having
their teeth professionally cleaned.
dentist will apply pumice (sand-like substance)
to a polishing bur attached to the dental drill.
Running the device across teeth surfaces helps
polish them and remove any remaining plaque.
At the very
end, your dentist may determine that you are in
need of fluoride treatment. Fluoride foam or gel
is then placed into small, flexible foam trays
and placed over the teeth for 30 seconds.
Afterwards the patient is directed to spit as
much out as possible into a saliva ejector.
It is best not to eat, drink or rinse for 30
minutes after the fluoride has been applied.
fluoride helps to strengthen the teeth since the
acids from bacteria in dental calculus and
plaque will have weakened the surfaces. Fluoride
is a natural mineral that gets built into your
enamel and helps strengthen it. Excessive
fluoride can cause flourosis of the teeth
though – a dental condition. Since fluoride is
often present in toothpaste and tap water, your
dentist may opt to not give you this treatment.
Fluoride treatment is largely reserved for
children, and adults who have poor oral health.
Question your dentist if you receive fluoride
application at every appointment without
charge for a standard teeth cleaning and dental
exam ranges from $50 -$135. The more
extensive deep cleaning process called scaling
and root planing is done by quadrants (upper
right, upper left, lower right, lower left) at a
cost of about $100 -$400 per quadrant depending
on the severity of the problem or $400 -$1,600
for the entire mouth. Most dental insurance
includes these procedures.
If you are
at risk of periodontal diseases because of age,
tobacco use, rate of accumulation of deposits,
personal oral hygiene practices, or medical
conditions such as diabetes or HIV infection,
your teeth may need to be cleaned more often.
Your dentist or dental hygienist can help you
determine how often you should have your teeth
have a heart condition, or have undergone recent
heart surgery, it is extremely important to
inform your dentist before the scaling procedure.
Those with heart problems or heart defects are
at high risk for developing a condition called
bacterial endocarditis, which can
seriously affect the heart. The only treatment
needed prior to a dental cleaning, unless
otherwise instructed, is a dose of antibiotics
an hour before the cleaning.
dentist does not know the proper dosage, then
one should contact one’s physician. Usually
dentists will know the dosage, but if in doubt,
one can also check with the American Heart
Association, which lists all guidelines for
bacterial endocarditis prevention.