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Dental Cleaning

Dental prophylaxis, commonly known as dental cleaning, is a preventive dental procedure performed by dental hygienists or dentists to maintain optimal oral health and prevent the development of various dental issues. The word "prophylaxis" comes from the Greek language and means "to guard or prevent beforehand," emphasizing the preventative nature of this procedure.


Dental cleaning involves the thorough removal of plaque and tartar (also known as calculus) from the surfaces of the teeth. Plaque is a soft, sticky film composed of bacteria, food particles, and saliva that accumulates on teeth throughout the day. If not adequately removed through regular brushing and flossing, plaque can harden into tartar, a calcified deposit that cannot be eliminated through routine oral hygiene practices. Tartar provides a conducive environment for the growth of harmful bacteria, leading to various dental issues.

Female smiling in a dental chair

Dental Cleaning Steps

The dental prophylaxis procedure typically includes the following steps:

  1. Assessment:

    • Before starting the cleaning process, the dental professional assesses the patient's oral health. This may involve reviewing the patient's dental and medical history, conducting X-rays if necessary, and checking for any signs of oral issues or concerns.

  2. Plaque and Tartar Removal:

    • The primary goal of dental cleaning is to remove accumulated plaque and tartar. Using specialized instruments such as scalers and curettes, the dental hygienist carefully scrapes away these deposits from the surfaces of the teeth, including areas that are difficult to reach with regular brushing and flossing.

  3. Polishing:

    • After the thorough removal of plaque and tartar, the dental professional polishes the teeth using a special paste and a rotating brush or rubber cup. This helps eliminate any residual stains and creates a smooth surface, making it more difficult for plaque to accumulate in the future.

  4. Fluoride Treatment (Optional):

    • In some cases, a fluoride treatment may be applied after cleaning. Fluoride is a mineral that helps strengthen tooth enamel, making it more resistant to decay. This step is often recommended for patients with a higher risk of developing cavities.

  5. Education and Recommendations:

    • Dental cleaning appointments provide an opportunity for patient education. Dental professionals offer guidance on proper oral hygiene practices, including brushing techniques, flossing, and the use of additional oral care products. They may also discuss lifestyle factors that can impact oral health, such as diet and tobacco use.

Perfect Smile and a mirror

Dental prophylaxis is typically recommended at regular intervals, often every six months, but the frequency may vary based on an individual's oral health needs and risk factors. Regular cleanings not only help prevent common dental issues like cavities and gum disease but also contribute to overall well-being by reducing the risk of systemic conditions associated with poor oral health.

Importantly, dental cleaning is a proactive measure that supports long-term oral health. By addressing plaque and tartar buildup early on, patients can avoid more extensive and costly dental treatments in the future. It is a fundamental component of a comprehensive oral care routine that emphasizes prevention and regular maintenance to ensure a healthy and vibrant smile.

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