Dental cleaning is the removal of dental plaque (a soft, sticky, bacteria infested film) and tartar (calculus) from the teeth. Dental cleanings are necessary to prevent cavities, gingivitis, and gum disease. Cleaning and polishing of the teeth leaves the surfaces of the teeth clean and smooth so that bacteria are unable to stick to them.
The dental hygienist or dentist will use specialized instruments to gently remove these deposits without harming the teeth. First, the dental hygienist will use an ultrasonic device that emits vibrations to knock larger pieces of tartar loose. The ultrasonic device sprays a cooling mist of water while it works to wash away debris and keep the area at a comfortable temperature. Next, hand tools called scalers and curettes are used to manually remove smaller deposits and smooth the tooth surfaces. These tools are curved and shaped to match the curves of the teeth.
Once all the tooth surfaces have been cleaned of tartar and plaque, the teeth are polished using a slow speed hand piece with a soft rubber cup that spins on the end. Prophylaxis paste (a special gritty toothpaste-like material) is applied to the teeth to make them shiny and smooth.
Your dental hygienist or dentist may also apply fluoride to the teeth to help strengthen the tooth enamel.