Hygiene Cleaning & Polish
Your dentist may have told you about the importance of getting your teeth regularly cleaned and suggested that you go for professional teeth cleaning. But shouldn’t brushing your teeth twice a day be enough?
While a proper at-home oral hygiene routine is a vital part of keeping your teeth in good health, you should make sure to get them regularly tended to by a trained dentist or hygienist.
The Importance of Professional Hygiene Cleaning
A hygiene clean and polish is also known as a ‘scale and polish’. During this treatment, plaque and tartar are scraped away from your teeth.
No matter how exceptional our oral hygiene, we all have natural bacteria in our mouths. When it mixes with food, it forms a sticky, pale-yellow film called plaque.
No matter how efficient your at-home teeth cleaning routine, there will always be hard-to-reach areas that are tricky to keep plaque-free. Plaque can build up in these areas and eventually mineralise, forming a hard, crusty deposit called calculus or tartar.
You can’t remove tartar by brushing your teeth alone. And if it is not removed, more plaque and tartar can build up around the tooth and possibly even under the gum line. This can cause or worsen gum disease and can lead to tooth decay or loss.
The best way to remove plaque and keep gum disease at bay is by regularly brushing your teeth twice a day and getting regular teeth cleaning from your dentist.
In-Person Tooth Whitening
Professional whitening procedures done in a dental clinic are one of the fastest and most effective ways to brighten your teeth. They will usually take around one and a half to two hours to complete, depending on the degree of teeth whitening in NZ you want, and offer almost ‘instant’ results.
A dentist or trained hygienist will apply a protective gel to your lips and gums before applying whitening gel, which contains the bleaching agent hydrogen peroxide, to your teeth.
A special LED light activates the gel. It might be challenging to keep your mouth open for so long, but listening to music or watching a movie can help distract you. Best of all, you’ll usually only require one treatment.
Frequently Asked Question
Why use professional dental hygiene cleaning supplies?
Remember that a scale and polish in a clinic is not a substitute for regular brushing with a fluoride toothpaste. You must combine regular check-ups with a proper daily oral health routine if you want to keep your teeth in the best possible condition.
You cannot remove the build-up of tartar at home. To do this, you need a trained dentist or hygienist using specialised teeth cleaning equipment. They will be able to scrape the plaque away without damaging your teeth, preventing tooth decay, receding gums, and gum disease.
Your smile is one of the first things people notice about you. A simple scale and polish can help you create a great first impression. It’s also vital for your health.
By eliminating the deposits of substances like calcium, plaque, and tartar from your mouth, a professional hygiene cleaning and polish dramatically reduces your risk of losing your teeth down the line.
What is a clean and polish?
This can be done either by a dentist or hygienist and consists of two steps.
In the first stage, the dentist removes the deposits of plaque and tartar, usually with an ultrasound scraper. After this, your dentist or hygienist will then use specialised, handheld instruments to scrape away any stubborn remaining bits.
The second step is the ‘polish’. This is where the surface of your teeth are made nice and smooth. Teeth cleaning and polishing removes stains, leaving your teeth bright and shiny and helps prevent the future build-up of plaque by smoothing away minor imperfections or patches of rough texture on the teeth
Do I really need to floss? Isn’t brushing enough?
Flossing reduces the number of bacteria in your mouth. There are millions of these microscopic creatures feeding on food particles left on your teeth. These bacteria live in plaque which can be removed by flossing. Brushing your teeth gets rid of some of the bacteria in your mouth. Flossing gets rid of the bacteria the toothbrush can’t get to. That’s the bacteria hiding in the tiny spaces between your teeth. If you do not floss, you allow plaque to remain between your teeth. Eventually it hardens into tartar. Plaque can be removed by brushing. Only the dentist can remove tartar.
Ask your dentist or hygienist to show you the proper way to floss. You will both notice the difference at the next cleaning appointment.
How do I floss?
Break off about 40 cm of floss, and wind most of it around one of your middle fingers. Wind the remaining floss around the same finger of the other hand. This finger will take up the floss as it becomes used.
Hold the floss tightly (without any slack) between your two hands, with about an inch of floss between them. Guide the floss between your teeth using a gentle sawing motion.
When the floss reaches the gumline, curve it into a C-shape against the tooth. Gently slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth until you feel resistance.
Hold the floss against the tooth. Gently scrape the side of the tooth, moving the floss away from the gum.
Repeat this technique on all of your teeth, including the teeth in back.
Can flossing loosen teeth?
If not removed through daily brushing and flossing, plaque can build up and the bacteria infect not only your gums and teeth, but eventually the gum tissue and bone that support the teeth. This can cause them to become loose, fall out or have to be removed by a dentist.
Should you floss before or after brushing?
Some dentists recommend flossing first because it lessens the risk that you’ll simply skip it once you’re done with brushing.
Others recommend flossing first because you can then brush away any plaque particles or food debris that have been removed.
Still others advise brushing your teeth and then flossing before you rinse, as you’ll pull some of the toothpaste between your teeth as you floss
You can brush or floss first, whichever you prefer
What happens if I floss to hard?
Flossing is an extremely important part of your oral care routine. It helps to prevent gum disease by keeping your teeth healthy and free of plaque. Proper flossing also “roughs up” your gums and makes them stronger. It is possible to have too much of a good thing, though.
Optimal Flossing Frequency: How Much is Too Much?
Flossing once a day is all it takes. Bacterial colonies that create plaque take around 24 hours to form completely. Flossing more than once per day has no real benefits unless there is something stuck between your teeth.
Over-Flossing: Causing Damage to Your Gums and Teeth.
If you floss more than once per day, it can cause serious damage to the gum tissue. It’s not just how often you floss that causes damage, though. Flossing too vigorously or applying too much pressure on the gums can cause the gums to bleed. Eventually, over-flossing can destroy the gum line. This exposes more of the teeth’s root, which eventually causes decay and cavities.
Many overzealous flossers use a saw-like motion in an attempt to get their teeth as clean as possible. This has the potential to wear through the tooth’s enamel and in extreme cases can result in periodontal bone loss. This causes the teeth to become loose and eventually fall out.
If you are concerned that your flossing technique is not up to par, ask your dentist to demonstrate at your next office visit.
Does a rinse or mouthwash help?
Mouthwashes for cavity protection, sensitivity, and fresh breath may help when you use them with regular brushing and flossing — but not instead of daily cleanings. Your dentist can recommend the best type for you.
Some people need twice-daily rinses for gum health or alcohol-free washes for dry mouth.
Children under 6 shouldn’t use mouthwash to avoid the chance of them swallowing it.
Why does a Dentist or Hygienist need to clean my teeth?
On top of removing plaque, during a professional clean dentists or hygienists will also scale your teeth, which is the removal of calculus — the hardened plaque that often builds up behind the lower teeth and in other areas. As calculus cannot be cleaned with a toothbrush, it should be removed by your dentist or hygienist on a regular basis to maintain gum health and catch potential problems that can be self maintained.
How does an Ultrasonic scaler clean my teeth?
An ultrasonic scaler uses vibrations to dislodge larger pieces of tartar/calculus deposits loose. At the same time as vibrating it sprays a mist of water. This washes away the debris to stop it re-sticking to your teeth and keeps the area from heating up and being uncomfortable.
This dental instrument often makes a humming or high pitched whistling sound. That sounds very loud to you as the sound gets amplified by being inside your mouth. In the same way an electric toothbrush sounds really loud to you when it’s inside your mouth when brushing your teeth.
The ultrasonic scaler has a curved hook rounded tip that is passed over and around the teeth. These tips look sharp but are not. Their purpose is to knock calculus deposits loose. There is nothing to panic about if it feels like your dentist or hygienist is taking a long time in one particular spot.
In tricky spots to brush your teeth you may develop larger deposits that have hardened. It may take your dentist or hygienist a little longer to dislodge these build-ups than in other areas.
What are scalers and curettes? How are they used to clean my teeth?
Once the larger pieces of calculus have been removed, your dentist or hygienist will switch to using hand instruments. Those long slender metal pencil like tools.
The dental instruments used for cleaning teeth are called scalers, picks or curettes.
These dental instruments are shaped and designed to scrape off smaller build-ups and run across the tooth surface to locate small deposits. Scaler and curettes are curved and dangerously pointy looking. Their purpose is to remove calculus by carefully scraping build-up off your teeth with gentle to moderate pressure.
Once all the surface build-up is removed from your teeth. It is time for your dentist to decide whether to give your teeth a polish.
Why does the dentist or hygienist polish my teeth?
Your teeth may be polished to remove fine layers of plaque or small traces of calculus debris.
Your dentist or hygienist may polish some or all of your teeth depending on what they see after cleaning your teeth.
Traditionally, polishing was a standard part of your check-up dental clean, however it is not an essential part of the process. In most patients it has little therapeutic value and so you may never have your teeth polished.
If your dentist or hygienist does need to polish one or some of your teeth. They will use a slow speed drill, except the drill bit is replaced with a very soft rubber cup. They fill the rubber cup with a special tooth polishing paste called Prophylaxis paste (or prophy for short). Prophy paste tastes like mint flavoured mud and feels like gritty toothpaste.
Once the rubber cup on the end of the dentist hand-piece is filled, your dentist will start it up and then selectively place the spinning rubber cup on the surfaces of your teeth they want to polish. It may sound like a drill, but it is definitely not a drill!
The result you get from having your teeth polished is a smooth glossy feeling when you run your tongue across your teeth.
What are the best ways to practice good oral hygiene at home?
It’s vital that all adults engage in daily brushing and flossing, but to take your oral hygiene to the next level, follow a handful of particular steps to good dental health. These include:
- Using products that contain fluoride.
- Limiting snacks that are high in sugar.
- Eating a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables.
- Avoiding tobacco in any form.
- Plaque can also build up on your tongue. Not only can this lead to bad mouth odour, but it can lead to other oral health problems. Gently brush your tongue every time you brush your teeth.
Why do my teeth darken?
Many factors work to destroy the naturally white smile you were born with. Tobacco, certain foods, and certain drinks actually stain teeth. These substances continually work on our teeth causing our white smile to gradually fade. Hot coffee and tea are especially hazardous to your smile because they change the temperature of teeth. This temperature change – hot and cold cycling – causes the teeth to expand and contract allowing stains to penetrate the teeth. Cutting down on coffee and tea can go a long way to creating a great smile. Foods that are slightly acidic are also dangerous to your white smile. These foods open up the pores of the tooth enamel allowing stains to move more easily into the tooth.
Your dentist can help you with more tips on keeping a white smile.
Why are my teeth yellow?
Diet: Certain foods that are high in tannins, such as red wine, are potential causes of yellow teeth. Some of the most common causes of tooth discolouration include drinking beverages such as coffee, soda, and wine. These substances get into the enamel of your teeth and can cause long-term discolouration.
Smoking: Smoking is one of the top causes of yellow teeth, and stains from smoking can be stubborn. But smokers can improve their yellow teeth by quitting smoking, following a complete oral care routine of twice-daily toothbrushing and daily flossing, and using the right teeth-whitening products.
Illness: Certain medical conditions or medications are also causes of yellow teeth. Patients who are undergoing chemotherapy for head or neck cancers may develop yellow or stained teeth. Also, certain types of prescription medications including medications for asthma and high blood pressure are causes of yellow teeth.
Poor Oral Hygiene: Poor oral hygiene is one of the causes of yellow teeth, but even the most diligent brushers and flossers can develop the discoloured teeth that occur simply with age.
Fluoride: Excessive fluoride exposure is also among the causes of yellow teeth, especially in children.
How can I get rid of excess plaque easily?
Plaque is very easy to remove with brushing and flossing when it is still soft and new. Just keep in mind that it only takes 48 hours for plaque to harden into tartar. Brushing and flossing on a regular schedule ensures that any excess plaque can be gently removed without hurting your gums. You may also wish to use a toothpick or dental pick to get bits of food out from between your teeth so it doesn’t provide a feast for bacteria. Using a mouthwash that contains fluoride can help kill off some of the oral bacteria that contribute to plaque.
When should you brush and floss? Always brush your teeth first thing in the morning. This gets rid of plaque that’s built up overnight so you can start with a fresh, clean mouth. Bacteria can still continue to create biofilm even when you aren’t eating anything. That’s why it’s normal for people to have “morning mouth” accompanied by bad breath. The bacteria in your mouth have just had eight hours of time to grow and spread uninterrupted while you were sleeping. If you are only brushing twice a day, make after dinner your second brushing time so bacteria don’t have any extra “fuel” to feed on overnight.
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is inflammation and infection of the gums and supporting bone structure, which if left untreated, can cause permanent jaw bone destruction and possible tooth loss. Untreated periodontal disease has been linked to increased risk for conditions such as heart disease, stroke, low birth weight babies, pre-term delivery, respiratory disease, and prostate cancer. An advanced stage of periodontal disease exhibits inflamed gums pulling away from your bone and teeth. Other signs of periodontal disease include:
- Bad breath
- Red or swollen gums
- Loose teeth or teeth that have moved
- Sensitive teeth
- Pus coming from around the teeth
- Pain when chewing
- Tender gums
- Bleeding gums
Treatment of early periodontal disease can be performed in-office. However, advanced stages may require surgery. Periodontal disease can be prevented and treated successfully by seeing your dentist and dental hygienist regularly and following recommended care plans.
What should I do about bleeding gums?
Gums bleed when they are irritated and inflamed which is not considered normal. This is due to plaque (a soft film of bacteria) being left on the teeth which causes inflammation called gingivitis and if not addressed can develop into gum disease. Over time, if not cleaned off through daily brushing and interdental cleaning, the plaque can turn into a hard deposit called tartar or calculus which will require professional scaling by your dentist or hygienist to remove it.
It is important even if your gums bleed they are still brushed to keep the mouth clean otherwise the bacteria build up in the mouth will make gum inflammation worse. After a few days of thorough cleaning, your gums should stop bleeding. If this does not happen you will need to ask the advice of your dental team as you may need professional cleaning.
A good oral care regime should be able to prevent your gums from bleeding if done correctly. We would always suggest that you have regular examinations at your dentist. This can help diagnose and treat anything unusual in your mouth so you get the correct care and advice.
You may have to use a softer brush whilst the gums are inflamed until they become healthier. It is also important to clean in between teeth daily using interdental brushes or floss. Smoking can cover up a gum problem as it restricts the blood flow to the mouth. If you have recently given up smoking this could allow the gums to get a better circulation and therefore start to bleed.
Can gum disease be treated successfully?
Yes. With appropriate care, to which most cases respond well to oral hygiene therapy. However, the more advanced the disease, the more difficult it is to treat. Make sure you have pay regular visits to your dentist to check for the possible presence of gum disease.
To manage gum disease, the level of bacteria in the mouth must be reduced a level which is manageable by the body’s own defence mechanism.
To avoid periodontitis/gum disease, follow these simple steps:
- Apply the very best home care methods.
- Professional cleaning by your dentist who can remove the plaque and calculus/tartar.
- Regular dental review.
- Removing risk factors such as smoking.
Because gum disease causes permanent damage in some cases, the aim of treatment is to control the bacteria. This is a daily, lifetime activity.
Your dentist is trained in managing gum disease and will probably refer you to a dental hygienist for a daily management plan. If your dentist feels your condition needs more care, you will be referred to a Periodontist.
Prevention is better than cure. See your dentist regularly, because gum disease can be prevented by good oral hygiene and early intervention.