It’s crept up on you yet again—your biannual dental cleaning appointment. Whether you’re jumping at the bit to show off how well you’ve been brushing and flossing, or you’re dreading the look of disappointment from the dental hygienist, your teeth could always use some extra TLC (tender loving care) from a professional.
That means you’ll need to take time out of your schedule for your dental cleaning. And as much as you love having a conversation while delicate hands scrape away plaque from the nether regions of your molars, you may be checking your calendar to see just when you can squeeze in an appointment.
So, how long does a dental cleaning take? You should expect to be in the seat for thirty minutes to an hour for a regular cleaning—but it may go longer should you need a more thorough cleanse.
To that end, sit back, relax, say ahh, and let’s tackle all things dental cleaning.
Different Types of Dental Cleanings
As noted above, thirty minutes to an hour is the typical time required for a standard cleaning, or “Prophylaxis cleaning.” But not all types of dental cleaning are the same.
All dental cleanings share the objective of boosting your oral health and getting your teeth to shine as brightly as possible. The four main types are:
- Standard cleaning (Prophylaxis cleaning)
- Deep cleaning
- Periodontal Maintenance Cleaning
- Gross Debridement
So, to the question: How long does a dental cleaning take? There is no singular answer just as there is no singular cleaning.
#1 Standard Dental Cleaning
Also known as prophylaxis cleaning, this is the most common procedure you’ll receive time and time again when your teeth and gums are in a healthy state. Whether you’re closer to the 30-minute mark or the full hour depends on the extent of the cleaning, sensitivity, and whether or not you have braces.
Here is what your dentist or dental hygienist will do in your average dental cleaning appointment:
- Examination – They thoroughly examine your mouth to get an idea of its current health and to check for cavities and plaque and tartar build-up.
- X-rays – On some visits, dentists will take x-rays to get an in-depth picture of your oral health.
- Scaling – They use a metal tool, a scaler, to scrape away any accumulated plaque around the gum line and between teeth.
- Flossing – A hygienist will often floss for you between the teeth, taking note of any bleeding that occurs.
- Brushing – An electric toothbrush polishes your teeth with gritty toothpaste—you may have noticed it’s more abrasive than your daily toothpaste. You can imagine it like facial exfoliation, not safe to use every day, but effective when used on occasion. This is what makes your teeth feel extra smooth and shiny as you walk out of the office.
It’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all schedule for standard dental cleanings. For some, this will mean 6 months between visits, for others, especially those at a higher risk for gum disease, they should schedule visits with more frequency.
#2 Deep Cleaning
Your dentist will recommend this procedure when there is inflammation pointing to the presence or nearness of gum disease. If you don’t treat it, bacteria and tartar can lead to more serious dental issues like tooth loss.
This procedure involves two parts, scaling and root planing, causing the length of the appointment to be longer than your average cleaning. Sometimes, your dentist will prefer to spread it out between two appointments. It can take anywhere from two to three hours in total.
Here is what you can expect at a deep cleaning appointment:
- Local anesthesia – As this procedure goes under the gums, it can cause a bit of discomfort. Thus it is very likely that your dentist will administer local anesthesia to numb the areas they are working in.
- Scaling – A metal tool removes the plaque bacteria that is lying under your gum line.
- Root planing – A special tool that reaches deeper to address the surface of the tooth’s root. This also protects against any future bacteria and tartar build-up.
Wondering what to expect after a deep cleaning? After a deep cleaning, you may experience some discomfort in the first week. The procedure will likely have you taking extra measures at home such as eating soft foods, avoiding extremely hot or cold food and drink, and taking pain medications such as ibuprofen.
#3 Periodontal Maintenance Cleaning
This cleaning is only for patients who have serious, ongoing oral problems like gingivitis or periodontitis. Unlike standard cleanings, dentists on average administer them every three months.
This cleaning involves a combination of the following treatments:
- Taking X-rays
- Measuring the depth of periodontal pockets
- Reevaluating the effectiveness of your at-home routine
- Removing plaque above and below the gum line
- Retreating scaling and root planing if necessary
This series of cleanings sometimes follows up a deep cleaning if bacteria has resettled into the pockets between your gums and teeth. The number of treatments depends on how long until your dentist can get the symptoms under control and see improvement.
#4 Gross Debridement
The fourth type of cleaning is for when plaque and tartar have built up so much that not even a deep cleaning will cut it. It is sometimes necessary when a patient hasn’t visited the dentist for an extended period of time. It involves the following processes:
- A deep inspection of the gums and teeth
- The removal of calcified plaque and tartar
- Reevaluation of at-home routine
In severe cases, standard cleanings won’t be able to do their job without an initial debridement to clear away hardened plaque and tartar.
What do Healthy Gums Look Like?
Whether you need a standard dental cleaning or deep cleaning is up to your oral health. Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be a surprise. You can get an idea of what your dentist is going to recommend before sitting in the chair by checking the state of your gums.
The following are signs of healthy gums:
- No bleeding when brushing or flossing
Whereas these are signs of unhealthy gums:
- Bleeding when brushing or flossing
- Space between your gums and teeth
Whatever the state of your teeth and gums, it’s critical that you take a good look at your daily routine and eating habits and see what could use some improvement.
When we’re in the comfort of our homes, there’s no dental hygienist waiting in our bathroom to remind us to brush at least twice a day, nor a dentist in our kitchen giving us the side eye as we reach for a sugary snack. So it can prove difficult to remember all the ways we can care for our oral health on a daily basis.
To impress your dentist every visit, follow these tips that the CDC strongly recommends for maintaining oral health:1
- Use the 2-2-1-1 Rule – Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes per session, and floss your teeth once a day for one minute (at least). This 2-2-1-1 habit will set you up for success long-term. Of course, if you’ve just whipped up a batch of buttery popcorn to watch the new Marvel movie, you may find yourself upping this rule to the 2-2-7-7 Rule.
- Ensure your toothpaste has fluoride – Fluoride is a necessary ingredient for the American Dental Association (ADA) to give a specific toothpaste their Seal of Acceptance as studies point to it preventing cavities.2 So, give your seal of approval on your toothpaste by looking for fluoride in the ingredients list.
- Say yes to healthy foods – Oral hygiene and general wellness go hand in hand. The ADA confirmed that there is a bidirectional relationship between the nutritious (or sometimes not-so-nutritious) foods we consume and our oral health.3
- Say no to damaging toxins – Sugar, alcohol, and tobacco—all helpful to avoid when it comes to oral health. Tobacco, for example, has been linked to various oral diseases, including cancers, periodontal disease, and more.4 As far as sugar and alcohol fare? Not much better.
Being consistent with your oral health routine can help you cut down on the time you spend laying in the dentist chair in the long run.
Schedule Your Next Teeth Cleaning Procedure at West Coast Dental
Between finding a dentistry team that accepts your insurance, ensures quality customer service, and provides the specific dental service you need, the process of selecting a new dentist to carry out your next cleaning can be difficult.
At West Coast Dental our highly skilled and certified staff provides patients with stress-free and relaxing visits. Whatever you’re coming in for, we’re happy to ensure that your time with us in the office is nothing short of pleasant.
You can schedule an appointment online or give us a call. We offer same-day appointments to fit into your schedule, emergency dental visits, and are even open evenings and weekends.
We love seeing new smiles, and we hope to see yours soon.
- CDC. Oral Health is Important for Overall Health. https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/infographic/oralhealth.htm
- WedMD. Study: Fluoride Crucial to Prevent Cavities. https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/news/20180815/study-fluoride-crucial-to-prevent-cavities
- ADA. Nutrition and Oral Health. https://www.ada.org/resources/research/science-and-research-institute/oral-health-topics/nutrition-and-oral-health
- NCBI. Tobacco and its Relationship with Oral Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9124323/
- Healthline. How Regularly Should You Get Your Teeth Cleaned? https://www.healthline.com/health/dental-and-oral-health/how-often-should-you-get-your-teeth-cleaned