Dental cleaning is the removal of dental plaque (a soft, sticky, bacterial film) and tartar (a hard calcified material) from the teeth. Dental cleanings are necessary to prevent cavities and gum disease. If left untreated, severe gum disease can result in tooth loss. Cleaning and polishing of the teeth leaves the surfaces of the teeth clean and smooth so that bacteria are unable to stick to them.
The dental hygienist or dentist will use specialized instruments to gently remove these deposits without harming the teeth. First, hand instruments called scalers and curettes are used to manually remove smaller hard deposits and smooth the tooth surfaces. These instruments are curved and shaped to match the curves of the teeth. If there are extensive or very hard deposits on the teeth, the dentist or dental hygienist will use an ultrasonic device that emits vibrations to remove larger pieces of tartar. The ultrasonic device sprays a cooling mist of water while it works to wash away debris. This can also be used to remove large areas of stain. Then hand scalers are used to complete the removal of the tarter. Once the teeth have been cleaned of tartar and plaque, the teeth are polished using a slow speed hand piece with a soft rubber cup that spins on the end. Prophylaxis paste which is a special gritty toothpaste-like material is applied to the teeth to make them shiny and smooth. Your dental hygienist or dentist may also apply fluoride to the teeth to help strengthen the tooth enamel.