What are plaque and calculus?
Plaque is the sticky, colourless film that constantly forms on your teeth. Bacteria live in plaque and secrete acids that cause tooth decay and irritate gum tissue. This irritation causes an inflammatory reaction by your body that can eventually lead to gingivitis and periodontal disease. If plaque is not removed regularly by tooth brushing and flossing, it hardens to create calculus (also known as tartar). Calculus cannot be removed with a toothbrush; only a dental professional can remove it during an oral cleaning. To keep plaque and calculus under control, it is essential to brush your teeth twice every day, floss at least once every day, and see your dental professional for regular cleanings. The purpose of the cleaning and polishing is basically to leave the surfaces of the teeth clean and smooth so that bacteria are unable to stick to them and you have a better chance of keeping the teeth clean during your regular home care. Also it leaves your teeth feeling lovely and smooth and clean, which is nice when you run your tongue around them.
What to expect during dental cleanings?
The dental hygienist or dentist uses specialised instruments to gently remove these deposits without harming the teeth. Ultrasonic instrument is commonly used, tickling vibrations to knock larger pieces of tartar loose. It also sprays a cooling mist of water while it works to wash away debris and keep the area at a proper temperature. The device typically emits a humming or high pitched whistling sound. This may seem louder than it actually is because the sound may get amplified inside your head, just like when you put an electric toothbrush into your mouth. The tips are by no means sharp since their purpose is to knock tartar loose and not to cut into the teeth. Please make sure to inform the operator if the sensations are too strong or ticklish so that they can adjust the setting appropriately on the device or modify the pressure applied. With larger deposits that have hardened on, it can take some time to remove these. So your first cleaning may take longer than future cleanings. Once all the surfaces are smooth, the dental worker may polish your teeth. Polishing is done using a slow speed handpiece with a soft rubber cup that spins on the end. Prophylaxis (short for prophy) paste – a special gritty toothpaste-like material – is scooped up like ice cream into the cup and spun around on the teeth to make them shiny smooth. 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. The fluoride helps to strengthen the teeth surface which was covered by plaque and calculus. It is best not to eat, drink or rinse for 30 minutes after the fluoride has been applied.
Is it going to be painful?
Most people find that cleanings are painless. Common sensations include tickling vibrations, the cooling mist of water, and the feeling of pressure during “scraping”. Be sure to let your dentist/hygienist know if you find things are getting too uncomfortable for your liking. They can recommend various options to make the cleaning more enjoyable. Painful cleaning experiences can be associated with exposed dentine or sore gum tissues. You can choose to be numbed, if you find the scaling a bit too uncomfortable.