We all know that regular teeth cleaning visits to your local dentist, along with brushing and flossing regularly, are an integral component of dental health. The reasons for this may surprise you, however. You see, your dental cleaning appointment is not just a simple dental cleaning. There is a lot more going on behind the scene that you don’t see (probably because you’re staring up at the ceiling), which is why you should never miss a professional dental cleaning with a certified dental hygienist. So, what else is the dental hygienist and dentist doing during these dental cleaning procedures? Let’s discuss the many reasons why your teeth cleaning is not just a teeth cleaning.

Good Dental Health Starts with Prevention

Many patients feel that a dental cleaning appointment is solely for removing stubborn plaque or tartar build-up on your teeth. However, your dentist appointment is more than a hygiene treatment; it’s a dental examination as well. Your dental hygienist and dentist want to identify problem areas such as gum disease, bone loss, or loose teeth BEFORE they become a problem, and you need to have restorative work conducted. Prevention is at the root (tooth pun!) of good oral hygiene.

What Happens During a Teeth Cleaning Appointment? 

So, in addition to removing plaque, tartar, and stains that cause tooth decay and gum disease, what else happens during a teeth cleaning appointment? Many things. Your dental hygienist will perform the following examinations during your dental cleaning:

Check for tooth decay

Your dentist will ask if you’ve had any problems, issues, or concerns during your oral examination. In addition to asking about any tooth pain or sensitivity, they will also examine your teeth, probing them with dental instruments to check for soft areas.

Check gums for blood, pus, or pockets

Your dentist will also ask you about any pain or tenderness in your gums. During your teeth cleaning appointment, they will look for visual signs of infection in your gums, such as swelling, redness, or areas that bleed excessively or have pus or pockets. By diagnosing and treating gum disease in its early stages, you can eliminate pockets caused by gum disease and help prevent future bone loss.

Evaluate gum texture and gum recession

Bad breath, bleeding, red, or swollen gums, or areas of the gum that have pulled away from your teeth are the warning signs of periodontal disease. Your dentist will also use an X-ray to check for periodontal disease, infections, or bone loss. Bacteria hide under the gums and causes dental disease, which makes this evaluation extremely important.

Check facial muscles, jaw joint, and lymph nodes 

A swollen jaw or facial muscles can be an early sign of an abscessed tooth, pericoronitis, or bacterial infection. Oral cancer, which typically starts in the mouth or throat, can spread to your lymph nodes in your neck and jaw, causing swelling. Your dentist will do a visual examination to detect any swelling and may also physically feel your neck, jaw, and lymph nodes.

Conduct an oral cancer screen inside the mouth and outside on your face

This simple, natural part of the examination alone makes going to the dentist worth every second. Oral cancer kills 1 person every 24 hours. In fact, the death rate for oral cancer is even higher than more commonly discussed cancers such as cervical, thyroid, and skin cancer.

Utilize X-rays to measure bone levels and check for decay between teeth, cysts, abscesses, and root absorption. 

X-rays will be performed by your dentist’s office at least once a year as they reveal a wealth of information. Not only can they shed light on the extent of cavities and of tooth decay but can also identify changes in bone or root canals due to infection. An x-ray will show your dentist if you have an infection at the root of the tooth or between the gum and tooth, commonly referred to as an abscess. X-rays will even show cysts and some types of tumors.

Check fillings for leaks or cracks

Filings are made of several different materials, including composite resins, glass ionomers, dental amalgam, and porcelain. There is no way to predict how a tooth will react to a particular material.

Additionally, problems with existing fillings can usually be detected in the early stages. For these reasons, regular dental examinations are essential. Your dentist will use an instrument called an explorer to detect any worn spots around the edge of the filling and to identify any weakness or cracks in a filling. A dental X-ray will also point out if the filling has been leaking and to detect decay under the filling.

Check for loose teeth or shifting and drifting of teeth

Teeth moving, loosening, or “drifting” can be a sign of advanced gum disease. The first step towards treating gum disease is plaque removal and cleaning of the periodontal pockets, which helps reduce any inflammation of the gums. Again, early diagnosis is key to preventing more severe and costly procedures such as scaling, root planning, gum surgery, or tooth extraction from being needed. If you have noticed any unusual symptoms such as new spaces developing between your teeth, pus between your teeth or gums, or persistent bad breath or an unpleasant taste in your mouth, be sure to discuss these with your hygienist or dentist during your appointment.

Check bite for wear, proper function, and TMJ issues

Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects your jaw to your skull. TMJ issues can be caused by misalignment of teeth or jaw, teeth grinding, injury to the teeth or jaw, or arthritis. Your dentist will examine your jaw during your teeth cleaning visit to see if there is tenderness or swelling in your jaw. They will also use X-rays of your jaw to look for other signs of wear or misalignment.

Patient Education and Recommendations

Not only are you going to get that free toothbrush and dental floss at the end of your dental cleaning appointment, but you’ll also get recommendations and direction on how to improve your oral health. If there are any issues identified with your teeth, gums, jaw, or mouth, your dentist will provide you with specific care instructions and next steps.

Don’t Miss a Teeth Cleaning

Again, regular check-ups help your dental hygienist and dentist identify dental conditions before they cause trouble or lead to more serious problems. These are issues that you may be unaware of and keeping your regular teeth cleaning appointments will help reverse early stages of tooth decay and identify and treat cavities or abscesses before they begin causing you pain. These regular check-ups that take place during your teeth cleaning will help prevent dental problems that could end up costing you much more money and time.

Dentist Near Me

In conclusion, you now understand why your teeth cleaning is not just a cleaning; it’s a full assortment of examinations that keep positively impacting your entire oral health. Having a routine dental cleaning not only cleans in places you can’t reach but also saves you money and can prevent future problems before they start.

As a Knoxville Dentist Office, University General Dentist is proud to serve Knox County and surrounding areas. With two convenient locations at the University of Tennessee Medical Center and in West Knoxville on Kingston Pike, our staff is standing by to schedule your next dental cleaning appointment. Contact us online or by calling (865) 305-9440 (UT/Downtown) or (865) 500-5700 (West Knoxville).

We look forward to keeping your smile beautiful and protecting your oral health.