A dental cleaning is a fairly routine procedure to thorough clean the tooth structure above the gums that is recommended every 3, 4 or 6 months depending on patient's oral condition.
Most dental cleanings take between 30 minutes and an hour. If the cleaning is part of a yearly check-up, the dentist may also take X-rays to check for cavities. The dentist will normally take a last look, and perhaps perform some difficult plaque removal toward the end of the cleaning, as well as evaluate the gums for gum disease.
Dentists generally use several tools during a dental cleaning, including a scaler and a polisher. A scaler is used to remove hard plaque, "tartar", and a polisher is used to remove plaque and stains.
Those getting a dental cleaning should also expect the dentist to inquire about their home brushing and flossing activities. Dentists may inform patients during a cleaning if they have a lot of plaque or if they don't regularly brush and floss their teeth. If a person is regularly caring for his or her teeth at home, and plaque build-up is still significant, this may indicate the need for more frequent cleanings.
Dental cleanings often conclude with advice about how to care for teeth at home, and scheduling any appointments needed for more extensive services, like filling cavities. People with busy dentists should schedule their next cleanings well in advance, so as to keep regular six-month cleaning appointments.