Dental Cleaning – How Does a Dentist Clean Teeth?

Your at-home hygiene care is important for maintaining healthy teeth and a healthy mouth. However, just as important as your at-home care, is receiving a professional dental cleaning at your dentist’s office. These cleanings are important, because your oral health actually has an effect on the health of your body and mind, in addition to your mouth. If you do not receive professional cleanings, you will not be keeping your mouth as healthy as possible.

What Will Happen During Your Professional Cleaning Appointment?

It’s important to know, in case you have never been to the dentist, that your dentist will not actually be the one who cleans your teeth. Your dentist will have a team of hygienists who perform cleanings and other procedures, based on their level of education. Your hygienist will use specialized tools to remove plaque and tartar from the surface of your teeth and from where your gums meet your teeth.

During the course of your cleaning, your hygienist should carefully explain what he or she is doing, and why they are doing it. Below, we outline what typically occurs during a professional cleaning:

A Physical Examination

Before anything else happens, as soon as you sit in the dental chair, a hygienist will carefully examine your mouth and teeth with a small mirror. This occurs so your hygienist can spot any potential problems or concerns right away. If they spot something serious, they will call the dentist in right away to determine how to proceed.

Plaque and Tartar Removal

After your mouth has been carefully examined, your hygienist will begin to scrape away plaque and tartar from your gum line and in between your teeth. Your hygienist will utilize two tools: a scaler and a small mirror. The small mirror helps to guide your hygienist along while the scaler is used to remove plaque and tartar build up. Do not be alarmed by hearing a scraping noise during this time, that is perfectly normal.

A Thorough Cleaning

When you think about going to the dentist, this is probably the part you think about (or hear) the most. In order to clean your teeth thoroughly, your hygienist uses a high powered electric toothbrush. You know, these are the toothbrushes with infamous grinding/vibrating noise. This toothbrush is designed to clean and eliminate and tartar that is left behind after the initial plaque and tartar removal.

When receiving a brushing at the dentist, you may notice that the toothpaste is much grittier than the toothpaste you use at home. The gritty texture of this toothpaste will work to scrub your teeth and give your teeth a gentle polishing.


Why do you receive a flossing if you floss at home? A professional flossing will be much more effective compared to when you floss at home. Your hygienist will know the proper form to use, and which areas need more attention based on what they saw during the initial examination. And, sorry to tell you, dentists and hygienists know when you don’t really floss. We asked a few top dentists if flossing really produces results, you can read about it in another blog article.

One Final Rinse

After all of the cleaning, scraping, grinding, and flossing are over, you will be provided with a cup that is full of water to rinse with. This final rinse will wash away any debris or leftover particles from your cleaning.

A Fluoride Treatment

After your cleaning is completely done, your hygienist will take one final step: a fluoride treatment. Typically, your hygienist will fill a mouthpiece with a foam that fits over your teeth. Typically, this mouthpiece is left on your teeth for one minute and then removed. This fluoride treatment will help to remineralize your teeth.

At the end of your appointment, your dentist will stop in to look at your teeth, evaluate your care, and give you feedback about your oral health.

In addition to the steps above, there may be additional steps taken, depending on what happened during your visit. Once per year, you should expect to have x-rays taken of your jaw bone and mouth. These x-rays are important in identifying potential health issues.