The American Dental Association recommends that everyone see their dentist regularly for cleaning and checkup appointments. The first portion of this appointment usually takes place in the hygienist’s chair, and then your dentist will come in to look over your teeth for cavities and other problems.
If it has been a while since you’ve had your teeth cleaned, you may not know what to expect during the cleaning and hygiene portion of the appointment. Generally, your hygienist will do the following five things.
1. Gum Health Assessment
Because your dental hygienist will be working so closely to your gums, they will take this opportunity to assess the overall health of your gums. They will look for problems like inflammation, redness, and sensitivity, which may indicate the early stages of gum disease.
If your hygienist does notice signs of gum disease, they will offer you pointers on how to correct the gum disease with better hygiene habits. For example, they may recommend a mouthwash to use daily to help kill the bacteria that cause gum disease, or they might recommend that you cut down on sugary drinks between meals.
Prophylaxis is the technical term for the cleaning and scraping that your dental hygienist performs to protect against future problems like gum disease and tooth decay. During prophylaxis, your hygienist uses an instrument to carefully remove tartar from the surfaces of your teeth. Tatar, also known as calculus, is a hardened substance comprised of bacteria, minerals, and saliva. Your hygienist will clean all of the way down to and just below your gum line.
If it has been a while since you have been to the dentist for a cleaning appointment, prophylaxis might be a bit uncomfortable. If you experience discomfort, your hygienist can apply a topical numbing gel and other desensitizing products to reduce discomfort during the procedure.
Just as you should do at home, your hygienist will use dental floss to clean between your teeth. This is an important step because bacteria between the teeth can easily cause decay to become established in these areas. If you have trouble flossing at home, take this opportunity to ask your hygienist for tips. They can show you how to angle the floss to reach certain teeth or recommend a different type of floss that is easier to squeeze between tight teeth.
When your dental hygienist is done scraping and flossing your teeth, they will polish the surfaces of your teeth. They will use a polishing paste, often flavored with mint or cinnamon, to do so. The polishing paste is applied with a small rubber cup mounted on a handpiece, so you should not feel any discomfort when it is used on your teeth.
Polishing makes your teeth appear cleaner and brighter. This process also leaves the surface a bit smoother, so food particles and plaque are less likely to stick to your teeth in the weeks that follow.
5. Tips for Improvement
Based on where they find the most tartar and plaque, your dental hygienist will also offer you some advice for improving your own brushing and flossing habits. For instance, if they notice a lot of tartar on the backs of your lower incisors, they may instruct you to spend more time brushing these teeth. If they notice a lot of plaque between your back molars, they may recommend that you floss between these teeth more carefully.
Now you have a better idea of what to expect when you sit down in your dental hygienist’s chair. If you are looking for a new dentist in the Meridian area, contact Silverstone Family Dental to schedule a checkup and cleaning appointment.