Dental Cleanings In Portland, Maine

Everything You Should Know About Dental Cleanings

While you should be getting a dental cleaning every 6 months at your regular appointments, not everyone has had the privilege of continuous dental care.  Be it due to a lack of insurance or negligence, not everyone is familiar or comfortable with dental cleanings.  That’s why we wanted to provide all our clients with a good sense of what dental cleanings are, why you need them, and how they help.

The Types of Dental Cleanings

There are three common types of dental cleanings, differentiated by the degree and types of cleaning needed. We can provide all of these cleanings in our office, though more extensive cleanings may require a return visit.

  • Prophylaxis
    This is the basic maintenance cleaning you should be most familiar with.  If you visit us every 6 months, this is probably the only type of cleaning you will ever need.
  • Debridement
    This intensive cleaning is most often needed for adults who haven’t had a cleaning in a year or more. This is similar to a Prophylactic cleaning but far more intense.  This helps to remove embedded plaque and restore the health of your teeth.  In some cases, a debridement may have to be split between two appointments.
  • Periodontal
    These cleanings focus on not just the teeth but the gums as well.  This type of cleaning is needed to help treat gum disease and can be painful since diseased gums are often very sensitive.
  • Scaling And Root Planning
    These extensive cleanings are focused on patients with significant periodontal concerns.  For this cleaning, we don’t only remove the plaque above the gum line but below it.  We clean all the was to the bottom of the tooth’s pocket in the gums to assure a complete clean.

When To Schedule a Dental Cleaning

We schedule cleanings every 6 months for our patients in accordance with public health guidelines. Specifically, the American Dental Association suggests two dental cleanings per year in addition to at-home care that includes brushing at least twice daily, flossing between teeth daily, and eating a healthy diet that restricts sugar intake. 

In some cases, especially if you haven’t had a cleaning in a long time or you have complicating factors, we suggest a shorter window between cleanings until your dental health is at a maintenance level.  In these cases, once your dental health is sound enough, we suggest going back to a twice-yearly cleaning schedule.

What to Expect from Your Dental Cleaning

Most of us get cleanings pretty regularly, but if it has been a while, or you want to understand the process better, it’s helpful to break down dental cleanings into a series of steps.  Here’s what to expect from a regular dental cleaning.

  1. We’ll start with a dental hygiene evaluation from your hygienist.  Before starting any cleaning, we’ll take a look at your teeth and assess your cleaning needs.  The dentist might be called in for a second opinion if something unexpected is found.  If it’s clear that you need advanced care, your hygienist or dentist will suggest it at this time.
  2. Once your teeth and gums have been assessed, we will start cleaning away plaque and tartar with a scraping tool.  The more tartar you have, the longer this process will take.
  3. Once we’ve scraped away most of the plaque and tartar, we’ll use gritty toothpaste to thoroughly clean the remaining residue off your teeth.  We use special polishing toothpaste that is too abrasive to use every day but makes your twice-yearly cleanings more effective.
  4. Once we’re done with the cleaning of visible parts of your teeth, we’ll engage in expert flossing to get between your teeth and stimulate your gums.
  5. With the active cleaning done, we’ll thoroughly rinse out your mouth with a suction tool to collect all the rinsed-away plaque, toothpaste, and any other residue.
  6. Lastly, we will provide a fluoride treatment for your teeth that will help keep them healthy between visits.

There may be some additional steps to your typical visits, such as x-rays, or sealants, depending on your needs.  Generally, you should expect to get oral x-rays at least once a year.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the types of cleanings?

There are 4 common types of dental cleaning, differentiated by the degree of cleaning needed.  The first, most common type is called “prophylaxis” or simply a “prophy,” which is a routine dental cleaning.  The second is called “scaling in the presence of inflammation,” which is more for patients who haven’t had a routine cleaning in a while and have some areas of gingivitis.   The third is called a “debridement,” and this is for patients who have a significant amount of tartar and calculus buildup on their teeth.  The last common type is “scaling and root planing,” which are for patients that have a periodontal condition.

Why do Hygienists perform most cleanings?

This is a question we get occasionally, and it’s really easy to answer. Hygienists are, essentially, specialists in dental cleaning.  They perform the preliminary evaluations and cleanings for most patients because it frees up the dentist’s time for procedures they aren’t trained for, such as fillings and root canals and because the constant practice they get makes them simply better at dental cleanings.  In short, hygienists are, on average, better at dental cleanings than dentists.

How important are regular cleanings?

Dental cleanings are the foundation of good oral health.  While dental cleaning may not always be the highest priority if you have an acute need for dental care, cleanings are the best way to prevent the need for acute dental care.  With regular 6-month cleanings and proper home care, you can maintain excellent dental health indefinitely and avoid painful or costly procedures.

Insurance Coverage We Accept

  • Delta Dental
  • Aetna
  • Metlife
  • Principal
  • Humana
  • Cigna
  • Anthem BC/BS

If You Don’t Have Dental Insurance

If you or your family members don’t have dental insurance, we do accept out-of-pocket patients. That said, we also participate in the Kleer Dental Discount program (which you can sign up for here) to save our uninsured patients some of the high costs of paying out-of-pocket and keep smiling.  Curious about the Kleer Dental Discount program?  With this annual membership, you’ll get 2 cleanings and 2 exams, plus a 20% discount on office fees. Watch the video below for more information about the program and how it works.