A dental exam and teeth cleaning is one of the most common appointments that you might see your family dentist for.
We’ll look at a few factors below that could make teeth cleaning appointments take longer than expected. But for a person with good oral hygiene from proper everyday care, around 60–80 minutes is the average length of a dental cleaning.
What Is a Teeth Cleaning?
A professional teeth cleaning helps keep your oral health in top shape and covers the areas your daily hygiene routine might miss. Your hygienist will remove plaque and tartar buildup, polish your teeth, apply fluoride, and evaluate gum health.
Many dentists offer a combination appointment that includes an exam and cleaning. The Canadian Dental Association (CDA) recommends 2 visits for a dental exam annually, where the dentist will perform a physical examination after the cleaning.
The hygienist will also perform an examination prior to the dentist coming in. They will check for potential problems, such as damaged teeth, tooth decay, gum infections, and lymph node inflammation.
At this visit, the dentist will do an oral examination to check for the following:
- Tooth fractures
- Tooth wear
- Tooth position changes
- Oral cancer screening
- Soft tissue lesions
- Oral examination which includes TMJ function, facial muscle tightness, and a lymph nodes examination
In addition, any x-rays that are taken will be reviewed with the patient. If you have any questions about the next steps during the appointment, your dentist or dental hygienist will be happy to answer for you.
Why Are Dental Cleanings Important?
Regular visits to your dentist give them one of the best chances of catching problems in your mouth, like cavities or gum disease, in their beginning stages. Catching these things before they become significant issues helps prevent extensive treatment and cost.
What to Expect at a Teeth Cleaning Appointment
Taking the time to visit your dentist is an investment in your preventative health. Let’s explore what to expect from the average appointment.
If needed, X-rays are taken at the beginning of the appointment so they can be used as a diagnostic tool as the hygienist cleans.
After X-rays are taken, the dental hygienist will complete a full mouth probing to check periodontal pockets. An instrument is used to measure the depth of these pockets, an important step in determining the condition of your gums. If needed, a gentle dental laser will be used to remove inflamed gum tissue. This helps treat periodontal pockets caused by advanced gum disease.
During the appointment a water-driven ultrasonic scaler will be used for gross debridement (removing the bulk of the tartar), followed by scalers to do the fine-tuning removal of the debris.
Then they will use a rotating toothbrush to remove the plaque and polish the tooth surfaces to be smooth. They typically follow the polishing with professional flossing before finishing with a fluoride treatment.
At this point, the dentist typically examines your teeth and mouth. The appointment may be over at this time unless they have concerns.
But at Cooper Dental, you may get so comfortable you aren’t ready to leave! We offer a paraffin wax treatment while you get your teeth cleaned, and if you’re cold, we have cozy blankets for you too.
How Long Does a Teeth Cleaning Take?
For the average person with good daily oral hygiene habits, you can expect around 60 to 80 minutes for a dental cleaning.
Most people only need X-rays once a year. But if your dentist suspects there could be hidden problems, they may recommend an X-ray of a specific site.
Poor Dental Hygiene
A large amount of plaque and tartar buildup on your teeth might require your appointment to be longer as your dental hygienist will likely spend more time cleaning your teeth. If need be, multiple appointments may be required. This is determined by how much tartar is built up on the teeth and when the last cleaning was.
Consider this: we recommend visiting the dentist for a teeth cleaning approximately every six months. If you haven’t been to the dentist in 3 years, you’ve missed 6 cleanings! It’s important to visit your dentist regularly to ensure your oral health is at its best.
Another aspect that can lengthen your appointment is your gum health. Your hygienist will perform a full mouth probing to check your periodontal pockets. This may determine whether or not you need the use of a gentle laser to remove inflamed gum tissue.
Dental anxiety is a very real thing for many people. There are techniques, like breathing exercises or meditation, to minimize the anxiety’s effect. But sometimes, even a teeth cleaning might cause a person a significant amount of mental discomfort.
Many dental hygienists take this into account when cleaning your teeth. As long as you communicate that you’re feeling uncomfortable from the anxiety, they can take extra care to slow down and minimize your feeling of uneasiness as much as possible.
Maintain Your Oral Hygiene Between Cleanings
One of the best ways to shorten your teeth cleaning appointments is by caring for your teeth in between appointments. This includes brushing at least twice daily and flossing or using a waterpik at least once—preferably after every meal.
These things won’t guarantee you never get a cavity or there’s never any plaque buildup. But they are some of your best tools for a healthy mouth.
Book Your Next Dental Exam and Teeth Cleaning
At Cooper Dental, we make it easy to get your teeth cleaned and checked by the dentist in a single appointment. Give us a call today and book your next dental exam and cleaning. If timing is an issue, we can work our best to fit your cleaning and exam into your schedule at a time that works for you.