Teeth Cleaning 101: What to Expect at the Dentist

If you’ve made an appointment at the dentist for teeth cleaning, then you may not know what to expect, especially if you’ve never gone through the procedure before or it’s been a while. Luckily, there is nothing to be nervous about. Here is what to anticipate when you go to have your teeth cleaned.

Before You Go

First of all, it’s important to know why dental cleaning is so important. The procedure allows the dentist to check up on your mouth, reinforce your dental hygiene habits, and provide a deep cleaning that can improve your oral health.

Before you go to the dental practice, you should be sure to brush your teeth. This won’t eliminate the need for a professional teeth cleaning, but it will make it more comfortable for you and often reduces the time you’re in the office.

Oral Examination

Generally speaking, a teeth cleaning is performed by a dental hygienist, although it may also be done by the dentist themselves. The first thing they’ll do at your appointment is check your entire mouth for problems, often using X-rays, a little mirror, or both. This will let them look for gingivitis (gum disease), large cavities, and other potential issues.

Plaque Removal

The next step is removing plaque and tartar, which are deposits left on your teeth by bacteria. Although plaque can be removed by good brushing, tartar has to be taken off by a dental professional. The person performing your tooth cleaning will use a scaler to scrape away tartar from the surface of your teeth.


Next, you’ll have your teeth brushed but not the same way you do it at home. Generally, the hygienist will use a powerful electric brush and special gritty toothpaste to scrub your teeth. This removes the last of the plaque, provides a deep cleaning, and even polishes your tooth enamel.


The hygienist will usually follow up by flossing your teeth for you, cleaning out debris and bacteria that can lodge between your teeth. Although this step is particularly important if you don’t floss regularly, it’s still useful even if you do. It removes any leftover plaque or toothpaste from earlier in the cleaning process.


At the end of the appointment, the dentist will usually apply a fluoride treatment to help keep your teeth strong and cavity resistant. Depending on the age and needs of the patient, this may involve a fluoride rinse, a second brushing with special toothpaste, or the application of a special gel to your teeth.