Teeth Cleaning

Aug. 31, 2009

Teeth cleaning is the removal of dental plaque from teeth, to prevent cavities (dental caries), gingivitis, and periodontitis. It is part of a complete program of oral hygiene.

Brushing, scrubbing and flossing

Brushing

Careful and frequent brushing with a toothbrush helps to prevent build-up of plaque bacteria on the teeth. These bacteria metabolize carbohydrates in our meals or snacks and excrete acid which demineralizes tooth enamel, eventually leading to tooth decay and toothache if acid episodes are frequent or are not prevented. Calculus (dental) or tartar buildup on teeth usually opposite salivary ducts is because of calcium deposits in resident plaque. Frequent brushing and swishing saliva around helps prevent these deposits. Cavities can be costly, in terms of the monetary cost to drill out the cavities and insert dental fillings, and in terms of the tissue already damaged. Fluoride- containing, or anti-plaque (tartar control) toothpastes may be recommended by the dentist.

Flossing

In addition to brushing, the use of dental floss too may help to prevent build-up of plaque bacteria on the teeth.

Almost all cavities occur where food is trapped between teeth and inside deep pits and fissures in grooves on chewing surfaces where the brush, toothpaste, mouthwash, saliva and chewing gum, cannot reach.

Special appliances or tools may be recommended to supplement (but not to replace) toothbrushing and flossing. These include special toothpicks, oral irrigators, or other devices. Initially electric toothbrushes were only recommended for persons who have problems with strength or dexterity of their hands, but many dentists are now recommending them to many other patients to improve their home dental care.

Scrubbing

Unlike tooth brushing, scrubbing can also be done using a twig. With this approach, no brush is used but the twig itself is used to clean the teeth. Plants saps present within the twig make the use of additional tooth paste unneeded. In many parts of the world Teeth cleaning twigs are used. In the Muslim world the miswak or siwak is made from twigs or roots that are alleged to have an antiseptic effect when applied as a toothbrush.

Professional teeth cleaning

Regular teeth cleaning (Prophylaxis) by a dental hygienist is recommended to remove tartar (mineralized plaque) that may develop even with careful brushing and flossing, especially in areas that are difficult for a patient to reach on his own at home. Professional cleaning includes tooth scaling and tooth polishing and debridement if too much tartar has accumulated. This involves the use of various instruments or devices to loosen and remove deposits from the teeth.

Most dental hygienists recommend having the teeth professionally cleaned at least once every 12 to 24 months. More frequent cleaning and examination may be necessary during the treatment of many of the dental/oral disorders. Routine examination of the teeth is recommended at least every year. This may include yearly, select dental X-rays. See also dental plaque identification procedure and removal.

However, in between cleanings by a dental hygienist, good oral hygiene is essential for preventing cavities, tartar build-up, and gum disease.

Complications

Overly vigorous or incorrectly performed brushing or flossing may result in injury to the gingiva (gums). Some results of improper or over vigorous brushing may include: worn-out bristles, unusually sore gums, damage to enamel of teeth, gingivitis and bleeding gums.

One should always call the dentist or dental hygienist if instructions or demonstration of proper brushing or flossing techniques is needed, or to schedule routine dental cleaning and examination.


Note: This guide is for public education only. It is not a diagnosis. Please talk to your dentist or doctor for accurate diagnosis of your condition. The dental guides on this site were obtained from public domains under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), other websites under GNU Free Documentation License/Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, dentists' contribution, or house grown.