When plaque is not removed, it begins to mineralize (or harden) and becomes a buildup of tartar that cannot be removed simply with a toothbrush and dental floss. Your dental hygienist should remove it with specialized dental instruments. During a dental cleaning, your hygienist removes all forms of bacterial buildup from your teeth, allowing you to “wipe the slate clean.” The word prophylaxis means “preventing diseases”. Therefore, prophylactic dental cleanings are used to clean healthy teeth in order to prevent them from being affected by tooth decay or gum disease.
Prophylactic cleanings remove plaque and tartar from the front, back and side of the teeth with a dental scraper or a stream of water. Most dental patients only require prophylactic cleaning, especially if they have maintained daily dental hygiene and have biannual dental appointments. The dental hygienist uses a small mirror to check for signs of gingivitis (inflamed gums) or other potential problems around the teeth and gums. Whether you need additional measures or not, the key is to keep going to the dentist to have your teeth cleaned regularly to avoid problems completely.
As you can see, there are different types of dental cleanings that your dentist may choose to use depending on what you find during your dental exam. One of the most important functions of a dental hygienist is their ability to educate their patients about risk factors and home care. An important aspect of dental cleaning is the removal of all bacterial buildup from the teeth and gums. Your dental hygienist can go deep between your teeth and locate any potential problem spots where your gums may bleed.
At certain dental cleaning visits, the hygienist will also take x-rays to assess the current state of health of the mouth. They use specialized dental hygiene tools as part of a professional cleaning that removes deposits from the teeth, cleans the gums and polishes the enamel. Your gum tissues can heal from any damage caused by bacteria after this cleaning, as you continue to keep your teeth clean with the care you receive at home. Using a small mirror as a guide, the dental hygienist uses a scraper to remove plaque and tartar around the gum line as well as between the teeth.
A dental hygienist is a licensed dental professional who receives two years of specialized training in the area of dental hygiene.