What is a Dental Cleaning?
Professional Dental Cleanings can be provided by your Dentist or by a Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH). During a dental cleaning your Hygienist removes plaque, tartar and other pro-inflammatory material from your teeth. They also remove these contaminants from your tooth roots underneath the gums. During dental cleanings, you may request to have your teeth polished. Polishing has limited health value but it does make your teeth feel nice and smooth.
Why Dental Cleanings are Important
Regular cleanings help to limit the amount of plaque, tartar and harmful bacteria in your mouth. These things all cause inflammation and they can lead to tooth decay or “cavities”. These contaminants can also lead to Periodontitis, or gum disease. Regular dental cleanings also come with dental recall exams, or “check-ups”. Check-ups allow your Kitchener Family Dentist to inspect your teeth and gums for things like cavities, Gingivitis or Periodontitis (gum disease). They can also evaluate the condition of things like dental fillings, dental crowns and dental bridges.
What is the Difference Between Gingivitis and Periodontitis (Gum Disease)?
This is a really important question. Gingivitis is simply inflammation of the gums. If your gums bleed when you floss, this is Gingivitis. When you have gingivitis, you do not lose gum attachment to your teeth and you do not lose jawbone from around your tooth roots. Gingivitis is 100% reversible. You can resolve this condition by brushing properly twice a day and flossing your teeth every night for 14 days. If you do this, and still experience widespread inflammation and bleeding of gums, it may be related to the presence of a contributing systemic condition or illness.
Periodontitis is fueled by gum inflammation and involves loss of gum attachment to teeth and loss of bone surrounding tooth roots. Periodontitis, or gum disease, is not reversible. With regular dental cleanings, and a thorough home care routine, you can halt the progression of Periodontitis. Often, patients with active Periodontitis require more frequent dental cleanings. I will discuss cleaning frequency in our next section.
How often should I have Dental Cleanings?
This varies from person-to-person. If a patient is at low risk for cavities, brushes and flosses daily, and has no history of gum disease or other systemic conditions they can likely maintain a healthy mouth with cleanings every 6 months. For patients experiencing severe inflammation, those who have deep gum pockets that trap food, or those who have lost gum and bone attachment due to Periodontitis, cleanings every 3-4 months would better suit them.
In some patients, the ideal cleaning frequency will change within their lifetime. For example, when teens or adults go through Orthodontic treatment (like braces or Invisalign), we recommend a 3-4 month cleaning interval. This is because Orthodontic appliances cause greater food collection around teeth and provide obstacles to proper home cleaning. In other cases, patients may undergo medical treatments that decrease their saliva flow (such as chemotherapy and radiation treatment). Low saliva flow allows more food and plaque to stay in the mouth and deposit in between teeth and deep inside gum pockets.
Are Dental Cleanings Painful?
A properly executed dental cleaning should not be painful. Occasionally, a patient may feel sensitivity as their Dental Hygienist scales or cleans tartar from their tooth roots. We always encourage our patients to let us know where those sensitive areas are so we can accommodate them and maximize their comfort.
How long do Dental Cleanings take?
The answer to this depends on the patient. Specifically, it depends on the amount of tartar and plaque present on their teeth. Some people have more of these contaminants present because they have not had a cleaning for a long time. Some people just naturally build more tartar than others. An average cleaning appointment with a regularly seen patient will typically take 40 – 60 minutes.
Does a Dental Cleaning whiten your teeth?
Yes. Dental cleanings can help your teeth to appear whiter by removing stain that discolours your teeth. Cleanings also remove plaque, tartar and biofilm from your teeth and these contaminants prevent whitening gels and toothpastes from properly penetrating into your enamel. So, cleanings will also allow any other tooth whitening substances to work better for you!
How much do Dental Cleanings cost?
The cost of a dental cleaning can vary greatly. The reason is that scaling and polishing are billed according to the amount of time (or number of “units”) taken to provide complete service. Units are 15 minute packets of time. If a hygienist scales your teeth for 30 minutes, that is 2 units of time. Some people build more tartar and hard plaque between cleanings. So, they would require a great number of scaling units compared to a patient with minimal tartar on their teeth.
With regard to polishing, a patient that builds more stain on their teeth between cleanings would typically require more polishing time to remove all stain. Thus some variability exists between patients in terms of how much scaling and polishing they require at dental cleanings.
A unit of scaling in the 2019 Ontario Dental Association (ODA) Fee Guide is $57. 2 units of scaling costs $114. An additional half unit of scaling costs $29. The most commonly billed number of units scaling for an adult cleaning is 2.5. If we call that a cleaning for the average adult, you are looking at a cost of $143. With a unit of polish ($31) added on, you are looking at approximately $174.
Other items that may add cost to a cleaning appointment include dental x-rays, fluoride application, and a checkup or recall exam.
The amounts I provide above are meant as a guideline. Your best course of action is to obtain a cost estimate from your Kitchener Dentist for these services.