This seems like a simple question but if you ask most people whether they know what the dentists are doing during teeth cleaning procedure, they probably may not know the answer. So let me explain in details what exactly goes on in the professional teeth cleaning procedure.
As we chew on variety of food with our teeth every day, we accumulate plaque and stains. Plaque are food debris left over on our teeth and around the gum. Stains are discoloration caused by solubles like soy sauce, coffees and wine. Unless we brush immediately and thoroughly after each meal, there will be some leftover plaque and stains. These plaque can slowly be turned into calcified plaque or in professional terms “calculus.” These calculus contains millions of bacteria which can cause dental infections and tooth decay. And these calculus cannot be removed by toothbrushing. It requires professional cleaning.
At the dental office, the dentist would use automatic devices called the ultrasonic scaler to remove these calcified plaque. The tip of the ultrasonic scaler would vibrate at high-frequencies, and when the dentist make this tip in contact with the calcified plaque, they would help dislodge the calcified plaque from the tooth surface. The ultrasonic scaler is efficient at removing big pieces of calcified plaque.
Then dentist would follow by using the hand scaler. These hand scaler are small instrument to scrap off small plaque from the tooth. Next, the dentist may use floss to remove the remaining miniscule plaque from the gum pockets around the tooth.
The final step is to use the prophy paste to “polish” the tooth. After the hand scaler, the tooth would have some microscopic scratches. The prophy paste essentially removes biofilm and polish the surface of the tooth to remove these micro scratches. By making the teeth more smooth, the bacteria and plaque won’t stick on the teeth as easily.
And whether dentist would follow each of the above steps during the cleaning procedure depends on the amount of plaque and dental condition of the patients. It is recommended that a person see a dentist for checkup and cleaning at least once every six months.
Written by Daniel Tee, DDS, MS
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