How Long Does a Dental Cleaning Take?

August 27, 2022

It is so important to set aside time from your busy schedule to visit the dentist. Even though a general dental cleaning is quite quick, it still makes a significant impact on your oral health. General cleanings remove plaque that may be too difficult to get rid of with brushing and flossing alone. 

They are also a form of preventative dental care in the sense that your dentist will screen you for any common oral health conditions during the appointment. The best part is that this can be done quickly, sometimes even over your lunch break. 

A general cleaning at the dentist takes between 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the amount of work that needs to be done. If a patient has not visited the dentist in over a year or more, it’s possible that the session will take longer. 

How Often Should You Get Your Teeth Cleaned? 

It’s recommended that you get your teeth cleaned and checked once every 6 months, but some clients may need to visit more frequently. 

For those recovering from oral health conditions, or oral surgery, it’s best to follow your dentist's treatment instructions and get cleanings more often if needed. 

What Happens During a Dental Cleaning? 

There are a few different stages of a dental cleaning session, so let’s break down what goes on, as well as the approximate timeframe for each procedure. 

x-rays at dental cleaning

1. X-Rays 

Normally your dentist will want to see updated x-rays of your teeth and jaw once a year. Therefore, x-rays do not happen in every dental cleaning session, as they are a more annual procedure. When you are getting your x-rays, your dental hygienist or dentist will ensure you are wearing a protective garment so that you are not exposed to radiation. 

Then, they will ask you to insert and bite down on a ‘bitewing’ which helps the x-ray capture an accurate image of your bite. Your dentist will take an x-ray on each side of your mouth. The whole process takes between 5-10 minutes. 

scaling at dental cleaning

2. Scaling 

The dental tools used for scaling may look intimidating. This is because they are designed to scrape build-up, tartar, and bacteria out from in between your gums and teeth. When scaling, your dental hygienist will use a small mirror as well as a scalar to revolve stubborn build-up. Normally, build up and plaque can be prevented and minimized by a proper, daily brushing and flossing routine. 

However, stubborn plaques are removed in the scaling process. Scaling normally takes roughly 10 minutes, yet, it can take longer if the patient has gone for a long period of time without getting a dental cleaning.  

tooth polishing

3. Professional Tooth Polishing 

Not to be confused with brushing your teeth, tooth polishing takes things a step further. Once scaling is finished, your dental hygienist will rinse your mouth to ensure there is no residual plaque or build-up. 

Then, they will polish your teeth with a specialized type of toothpaste. This toothpaste is slightly gritty in texture and is designed to remove any residual build-up, and polish your teeth. The hygienist will use an electronic-style of tooth brush in order to get a smooth and even shine for your smile. The entire polishing process takes roughly 5 minutes. 

dental cleaning in poco

4. A Visit From the Dentist

Once your teeth are clean and polished, your dentist will visit you and examine your teeth and mouth. They will check your teeth and gums for any signs of oral health conditions, as well as visually screen you for oral cancer. 

Likewise, your dentist will feel the area around your jaw and neck to ensure there is no swelling, pain or unusual lumps and bumps. This is a standard procedure that should only take a few minutes. Then, once the examination is complete, your dentist will review your x-rays with you and if there is anything out of the ordinary, they will explain what they see to you, as well as discuss treatment options. 

You will also have a chance to ask your dentist any questions you have about your oral health, and get feedback from them. 

If you are new to the clinic, your dentist will ask you about your medical history. They will also refill any medical prescriptions needed. If you and your dentist decide a follow up treatment or procedure is needed, they will book it with you during this time as well. The session with your dentist takes anywhere from 5-15 minutes, depending on your specific needs. 

5. Fluoride Treatment 

Before you leave and finish your dental cleaning, the dental hygienist will perform a quick fluoride treatment. Fluoride can fortify and strengthen your teeth. It helps keep your enamel strong and healthy. 

Most often, the hygienist will use a fluoride gel which gets applied to the teeth. However, in some cases they may give you a fluoride-rich liquid to gargle instead. The gel is the most common method of administering fluoride. 

The hygienist will fill a mouthpiece with fluoride gel and insert it into your mouth. You will be asked to bite down and keep the fluoride in for 2-4 minutes. It’s very important that you do not swallow the fluoride gel, as it can cause stomach upset. 

6. Rinse

There will be plenty of rinses throughout your dental cleaning, however, your hygienist will do one final rinse with water after your fluoride treatment to ensure everything is clean and feeling fresh. This should only take a few minutes. 

dentists at a dental cleaning

Get Your Next Dental Cleaning with Poco Comfort Dentistry 

A dental cleaning is an excellent way to maintain proper oral health. It’s also a great form of preventative dental care. During your cleaning, your dentist will screen you for oral cancer, as well as any signs and symptoms of other oral health conditions. All in all it’s the best way to stay on top of your dental care and avoid costly surprises in the future. 

If you are looking for a local dentist in Port Coquitlam, Poco Comfort Dentistry offers general cleanings, orthodontics, pediatric dental care and much more. We are a full-service dental clinic and we would be happy to have you as a patient. Contact us to book your next general cleaning session today!

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