What is teeth cleaning?

Dental teeth cleaning, also known as dental prophylaxis, aims to thoroughly remove any plaque and tartar on your teeth, especially build up that can’t be easily removed by brushing and flossing. If you leave plaque on your teeth, minerals found in our saliva diffuse into the plaque (calcium and phosphate) causing it to harden over time turning it from plaque into calculus. Bacteria can stick to this and the calculus grows causing inflammation in the gums (gingivitis) and if left untreated over time- gum disease. A professional dental teeth cleaning will remove this hard buildup and polish the teeth so bacteria won’t be able to stick to them as readily. They will still colonise the tooth, if you aren’t brushing properly, and the whole process will begin over again. This is why 6 month cleanings are so important, to help reset this process.

Why should I have teeth cleaning?

teeth-cleaning-and-fluorideAside from preventing gum disease and other dental problems like decay, dental cleaning gives you a big boost about looking after your teeth. We also remove staining so you will leave with a whiter, brighter smile. It is also necessary for the dentist to see the teeth and restorations clearly so a proper examination can be done. Can’t tell you how many times a cleaning has revealed something that was hiding and missed visually on the clinical examination. It really helps prevent bad breath too and since there have been studies linking oral health to heart diseases and other medical problems, you should make sure you don’t leave it too long.

How is teeth cleaning done?

To clean your teeth, one of our dentists will use specialised tools that will help them remove any plaque and tartar, especially in hard-to-reach areas between the teeth. Generally an ultrasonic scaler is used (it’s the one you all hate the sound of) and sometimes hand instruments. They don’t harm your teeth, though they can feel a little sensitive and some tools may look a little scary. Once the dentist has examined your teeth, they will then proceed to the cleaning, scraping away the tartar and polishing your teeth. Lastly, your dentist will recommend a fluoride treatment to re-mineralise the enamel, reduce sensitivity and help protect your pearly whites.

What is a fluoride treatment?

Fluoride is a natural mineral that strengthens and protects our teeth from tooth decay, sensitivity and problems cause by wear. It’s so effective on teeth, that it can even treat and reverse cavities and decay in its early stages. Fluoride is found in our community drinking water (among many others) though the concentration is fairly low- around 1ppm. Toothpastes are our primary source of fluoride and make the biggest difference. There are also professional preparations: fluoride treatments can be in the form of varnishes, gels, foams, tablets, drops, mouthwashes and -as I have mentioned- all important toothpaste! Fluoride treatments work best topically when they sit on the teeth, evidence for systemic effectiveness is a bit more sparse and water fluoridation is always a hotly debated topic. I have worked in both fluoridated areas and non fluoridated areas and I observed quite a difference in the decay rates -though other factors would also have been in play.

Am I suited to have fluoride treatments?

Even if your teeth don’t have noticeable dental problems, you can still benefit from fluoride treatments as its primary function is preventative. Fluoride treatments are even more important in children as their teeth are still developing and when fluoride is incorporated into their immature enamel it becomes more resistant to dental caries (decay). If you do have dental problems, the importance of fluoride increases exponentially, it is one of the factors in lowering your risk to decay alongside reducing sugar intake and brushing and flossing. Different concentrations are available- treatments tend to be gels that come in trays and placed on your teeth for a couple of minutes, whilst varnishes tend to be for actual active decay. Various preparations are available. The severity of the problem would be crucial for your dentist to determine: how aggressive the dental solution should be and how strong a fluoride concentration is needed.

What problems should I expect after taking fluoride treatments?

Very rare to get any problems from fluoride, although the trays can be a little bulky and sometimes cause a bit of gagging. Most treatments are painless and comfortable.

How do I take care of my teeth after getting teeth cleaning and fluoride treatment?

After getting your teeth professionally cleaned, together with your fluoride treatment, it’s time to go back to basics and make a real effort with your brushing and flossing- lock in your recall appointment too for your routine checkup every six months. Also, remember NOT to smoke, drink, rinse or eat for at least 30 minutes after getting a fluoride treatment to make sure it gets fully absorbed by your teeth. The longer you leave it the more of an beneficial effect it will have.