Get your Mouth a Deep Cleaning for the New Year

by Blake Herzog

Oral health is a key aspect of our overall wellness, not something that should be put off until pain becomes intolerable.

Brushing at least twice daily and flossing are our first line of defense against plaque, cavities, gingivitis, and other consequences of tooth decay and gum disease. But once plaque hardens into unsightly tartar, professional cleaning is necessary to prevent it from leading to receding gums and tooth loss.


Dentists and dental hygienists also are trained to look for lesions, tumors, and other possible indicators of disease. We should have our teeth cleaned at a dental office every six to 12 months to make sure any problems are addressed as soon as possible.

This is what should happen when your teeth are cleaned:

  • The dentist or dental hygienist will begin by removing any tartar and plaque from the surface of your teeth by using an instrument with a sharp point to “scale” them, scraping it away in a procedure that should not be attempted by anyone who doesn’t have the proper training.
  • This is generally followed up by polishing the teeth using a wand with a soft, rotating head and some gritty toothpaste to remove other surface stains along with any tartar and plaque left behind after the scaling.
  • Your teeth will then be flossed as the professional threads it through every gap between every tooth, taking note of what they find and which parts of your gums are more sensitive to being touched and disrupted. Since it’s easier for you to talk at this point, it’s a good time to talk about any concerns you’re having with particular areas of your teeth or whether you’re using proper flossing or brushing techniques.
  • You may be asked to have X-rays of your teeth and jaws taken and offered a fluoride treatment, though in most cases these are reserved for annual exams rather than six-month appointments.
  • If the cleaning is done by a dental hygienist, the dentist usually comes in to do a final exam after looking at any X-rays taken and informing you of any further treatment that may be needed.