A dental cleaning or dental prophylaxis is the process of cleaning dental bacteria (plaque) and tartar (calculus) from around the teeth. This is done to help prevent dental decay and gum disease (periodontal disease). These cleanings are done on a schedule based on a patient’s dental needs; typically every 6 months.
What Is a Dental Cleaning?
A dental cleaning is a tooth cleaning performed by a dentist, dental assistant, dental hygienist or a combination of these providers. Dental cleanings remove dental bacteria (plaque) and tartar (calculus) from around each tooth. This process allows the teeth and gums to remain healthy and to heal from the affects of the unhealthy bacteria. Dental cleanings or prophies usually involve a combination of both hand instrumentation, flossing, and the use of a dental handpiece to polish the enamel surface of each tooth. At our cleaning appointments, we take pride in encouraging and teaching good oral hygiene and diet habits. It is important for our patients to create good habits for a healthy smile that will last a lifetime.
Each patient develops plaque and tartar (calculus) differently. Some patients will need to see the dentist every 6 months to have their teeth cleaned because they don’t develop high levels of plaque and tartar. Other patients, even with diligent oral hygiene, will develop larger amounts of plaque and tartar. These patients may need to be seen more frequently to help keep their mouths healthy. Some patients will go through times of difficulty with their oral hygiene, especially with orthodontic treatment. These patients may be placed a frequent schedule of cleaning to ensure no irreversible damage is suffered during these difficult times.
During a dental cleaning, a dentist will usually examine the mouth and teeth for dental disease. We also recommend dental radiographs based on a patient’s caries (cavities) risk. This is typically once a year, but can be longer or shorter based on a child’s individual needs. Dental radiographs and the oral examination are to evaluate our patients for dental caries (cavities), tartar formation and elimination, and to screen for pathology.
At the end of the dental cleaning, we will recommend a topical fluoride treatment. Fluoride is a naturally occurring element that helps to strengthen dental enamel and reduce the affects of acid on teeth. Our fluoride of choice is a fluoride varnish. This varnish is simply painted on the patient’s teeth. This will soak in over the following 3 hours to “recharge” the teeth with “vitamins”. Patients can eat and drink immediately after applying this type of topical fluoride. We have other options for applying fluoride and will recommend an option that is best for your child.
Why do we recommend a dental cleaning?
A dental cleaning is important for keeping teeth and gums healthy. Removing harmful bacteria (plaque) and tartar (calculus) will not only keep a patient’s mouth clean, but has been linked to overall health benefits. Each patient has different dental needs and may require different cleaning schedules. Typically a patient is seen every 6 months to ensure any dental issues they experience will remain manageable.
Returning for a dental cleaning will also give the dentist an opportunity to evaluate a patient’s overall dental health. The dentist will examine a child’s teeth for caries (cavities), good oral hygiene, pathology, and development. When done at regular intervals, this allows children to become accustomed to the dentist office. This decreases dental anxiety and helps to build a good relationship between the growing patient and the dental staff. This helps to make the dental office a friendly place for children.
We recommend a child see the dentist by the ago of 1. This will establish your child’s dental home for the future. It may seem early, but early appointments allow patients to get off on the “right foot” for their dental health. It is normal for children to cry at these first appointments. The cleaning will not hurt your child, but the sounds, smells, tastes, and textures may be overwhelming. Starting patients early, however, will lead to less anxiety and fear as they become comfortable with dental cleanings much earlier. This will also give the dentist an opportunity to evaluate growth and development, give diet counseling, and give anticipatory guidance on things you should expect from growing child. These early visits also will give you a chance to ask questions about your child’s teeth and give you a place to call if any dental accidents occur.
How will you clean my child’s teeth?
It is our goal to make every patient feel safe and comfortable in our office. There is often anxiety associated with dental cleanings. We will go out of our way to accommodate all patients to the best of our ability. We will think “outside the box” to help make your child feel unafraid while we clean their teeth. We can clean teeth in our dental chair, at the sink, in a parent’s lap, standing up, sitting in our window seats, even in parking lot if we need to. We strive for patients to leave with a smile on their face.
For patients with special needs or extreme anxiety, we do perform dental procedures, including dental cleanings, under general anesthesia or other types of sedation. We reserve this for the patients with the greatest needs. We perform these services in our office under the direction of an anesthesiologist or at Carmel St Vincent Hospital. This allows us to treat your child without the risk of increasing dental anxiety or restraining them.
If we believe your child will benefit from “desensitization”, we will employ a program to lower their concerns about the dentist in a easy and friendly manner. We even work with schools and therapists to utilize similar techniques that patients will recognize during our dental cleanings. Your child will always be treated with love and respect, even during difficult cleaning appointments,
Who Will Benefit from Having Their Teeth Cleaned?
When do you recommend dental cleanings?
Each patient’s dental needs are different. When a child becomes a patient of our office, we will place them on a 6 month recall schedule. As they grow, we will re-evaluate their caries (cavities) risk and their cleaning schedule every time they have a dental cleaning. If a patient accumulates too much dental bacteria (plaque) or tartar (calculus) in a 6 month period, your child may be seen every 3 or 4 months to ensure optimal oral health.
We recommend patients begin seeing a dentist for cleanings by the age of 1. This will establish a dental home for your child and begin getting them accustomed to the dental office. It will also give the dentist an opportunity to educated parents about diet, oral hygiene, and growth expectations.
Where should I go to get a dental cleaning?
Pediatric Dentistry of Noblesville, of course.