Teeth Cleaning FAQ for Advanced Dental Care


What is a professional dental teeth cleaning?

Excellent brushing and flossing of your teeth as recommended by dentists and dental hygienists unfortunately, does not totally remove all of the deposits of food particles, debris and bacterial material that form on your teeth every day. Over time, these deposits will slowly build up, stain and get harder so that the only way they can be cleaned off is by a dentist or dental hygienist using special tools and methods. This procedure is called a professional teeth cleaning.

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What is a dental hygienist?

A dental hygienist is a person who has achieved an advanced college degree in oral hygiene studies and techniques. This allows them by state law to perform certain dental procedures under the supervision of a dentist including cleaning teeth of plaque, calculus and stain deposits. Dentists are taught to do teeth cleanings but ordinarily do only the most complex and difficult cases.  The scientific dental term for a teeth cleaning is a dental “prophylaxis”.

What is plaque?

Plaque is the pale whitish yellow, sticky and “fuzzy” film that you feel on your teeth when you wake up in the morning or haven’t brushed your teeth for awhile. It contains bacteria, sugars and other protein substances that make it stick like glue to your teeth. If not removed daily by brushing, it will start to irritate your gums. Plaque also contributes to tooth decay.

What is calculus?

Plaque eventually hardens on your teeth and turns into calculus. Another name for calculus is tartar. Calculus in Latin means “pebble” and calculus can be hard as stone. This is the material that the dental hygienist or dentist “scrapes” off your teeth.

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What stains can be removed by a cleaning?

Built up stains from smoking, coffee and tea drinking and certain foods can be removed easily. As people age, their teeth have a tendency to yellow somewhat. Also, some teeth have enamel discolorations not caused by smoking, eating or drinking. These “stains” cannot be removed by a cleaning but can be corrected by other dental treatments.

What happens if I don’t have a teeth cleaning?

Everyone forms plaque in their mouth. Everybody forms calculus in their mouth. If these two substances are not removed periodically by  a dental hygienist or dentist, you will eventually develop periodontal disease.


What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums and bone that surround the teeth. Some people call it pyorrhea or just “gum disease”. The first sign of periodontal disease is bleeding of the gums. The dental term for this bleeding is “gingivitis”. Gingivitis is usually noticed when a person spits out their toothpaste in the sink after brushing and it is slightly pinkish in color. The disease process continues with more bleeding and then sore gums. Eventually, the bone that surrounds the teeth becomes infected. In the final stages, the teeth may abscess, become loose and need to be pulled (extracted).

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Are there any other reasons to get a teeth cleaning?

  • Besides removing plaque and calculus for your overall dental health, removing ugly stains on your teeth can add self-confidence to you and your smile.


  • Built up deposits of plaque and tartar can cause chronic bad breath. The scientific name for bad breath is halitosis. There may also be hidden areas where food particles can accumulate even with a good tooth brushing and flossing. These hidden areas can cause even more bad breath odor.


  • During a teeth cleaning your mouth is given a thorough examination. The dental hygienist along with your dentist inspects your entire mouth for signs of disease, including oral cancer.


  • If you do have periodontal disease, teeth cleaning can allow the dental hygienist to periodically check and make sure your condition is not getting any worse.

Will I need x-rays?

In order to see if there is any damage to the bone that surrounds the teeth, the dentist or dental hygienist will need to take a few x-rays. Unless there are complicating factors,  x-rays to check for bone damage only need to be taken every two years or so.

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What kind of instruments are used to clean the teeth at Arden Dental?

  • The dental hygienist will usually start cleaning the teeth using a machine called an “ultrasonic”. Ultrasonic machines operate by creating super fast vibrating sound waves. Various types of teeth cleaning handheld instruments, shaped similarly to a writing pen are attached to the machine by wires and a water tube. When the machine is turned on, the instrument’s cleaning tip is placed against the tooth. The intense vibrations and water flushing action, along with the dental hygienist’s hand movements, effectively removes tartar and stains from the teeth.


  • The dental hygienist also uses what are called “hand instruments”. These cleaning instruments have the same general shape as the familiar dental pick or “explorer”, as it is called by dentists. These instruments have various different lengths, shapes, and types of cleaning blades at their tips. The dental hygienist uses the sharpened blade of these instruments on all surfaces of each tooth using pulling and pushing movements to scrape any off hard material.


  • In the final teeth cleaning step, the dental hygienist uses what is called a “dental hand-piece”. Most people refer to this piece of equipment as the dental drill. This hand-piece has a tip that rotates very fast. Small rubber cups and brushes are attached to its end much like a drill bit. Pumice or other cleaning agents are then applied to the rotating cups or brushes and used to polish the crowns of the teeth.

Which parts of the teeth are cleaned?                             

There are three specific areas of the teeth which are cleaned by the dental hygienist:

  • Above the gums, or “supragingival” are the surfaces of your teeth that show when you look in your mouth. Your “Pearly Whites”.


  • Below the gums or “subgingival” are the surfaces of your teeth that do not show and are normally slightly below or underneath the margin of where the tooth and the edge of the gum meet. As an example, this is the area where popcorn eaters frequently complain about the hulls getting stuck “underneath” their gums.


  • Root surfaces are the areas in your mouth where part of your tooth root(s) may be exposed in the mouth.

The most important areas that the dental hygienist cleans are the tooth services found  below the gums. This is where plaque and tartar eventually build up underneath the gum margin on everyone even with regular toothbrushing. Only a dentist or dental hygienist can remove this build-up once it has formed.

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How long does a cleaning take?

For a regular uncomplicated cleaning, the appointment usually lasts no more than an hour. Patients that have not had regular teeth cleanings or it’s been many years since a cleaning, more time will be needed to remove the extra tartar and plaque that have accumulated over the years.

Is teeth cleaning painful?

Different people have different experiences and tolerances for dental procedures. Most people find teeth cleanings to be pretty much painless. There are many different sensations produced during a cleaning. The ultrasonic instruments make a zinging sensation and there are pulling and pushing pressures with hand instruments. If needed the dental hygienists/dentists at Arden Dental Services can use other methods to make cleanings more comfortable.

  • “Numbing” gel an be rubbed on the gum tissue.


  • Regular “numbing” or local anesthetic injections can be administered.


  • IV sedation or “twilight sleep” is also a mild sedation type of anesthesia that produces some amnesia of the procedure.


  • “Valium” or other anti-anxiety medications can be taken before the appointment to “calm the nerves”.


  • In very rare cases, general anesthesia may be used.


  • Some dentists use hypnosis or teach their patients self-hypnosis techniques to reduce anxiety and pain.

How often do I need to get my teeth cleaned?

The number of dental cleanings required per year depends on various factors.

In general, most adults without any signs of periodontal disease need to have their teeth cleaned twice a year.

People who have periodontal disease may need to have their teeth cleaned as many as 4 to 6 times per year.

Dental experts recommend that a child be seen by a dentist at about four years of age or even earlier if possible. Generally speaking, children need to have their teeth cleaned and examined once per year.

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How much does it cost?

The average cost for a dental teeth cleaning or prophylaxis costs between $75 and $200. The average cost is $127. More complex procedures to clean teeth that have been affected by periodontal disease can run as high as $400 to $500 per quadrant. A quadrant is one-quarter of your teeth cleaned at a time, (i.e., upper right jaw, lower left jaw, etc).

Will my dental insurance cover that cost?

Most dental insurance policies allow one or two dental cleanings per year at no cost.

At Arden Family Dentistry we know that prevention of dental disease is always the best course of action. Having your teeth cleaned and checked periodically as recommended in this FAQ, is undoubtedly one of the best low-cost health investments in both your time and money for a lifetime of healthy teeth and a confident smile.

Dental Care
Service Type
Dental Care
Provider Name
Avery's Creek Family Dentistry,
Avery’s Creek, Arden, Asheville, Oak Park, Fletcher, Royal Pines, Biltmore Park, Biltmore Forest, Bent Creek, Fairview, Beaverdam, Candler, Naples, Mills River, Enka Village, Woodside Hills and the Buncombe County area.
Teeth Cleaning is needed twice a year at Arden Dental Care Provider, Avery's Creek Family Dentistry. Call (828)676-2114.

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