What Happens in a Dental Cleaning

Going to the dentist for a dental cleaning is an important part of keeping your teeth and gums healthy. While it might seem a little scary if you don’t know what to expect, understanding the process can help you feel more comfortable. 

What Happens in a Dental Cleaning

Arriving at the Dentist

When you first arrive at the dentist’s office, you’ll usually check in at the front desk. The receptionist might ask you to fill out some forms if you’re a new patient or update your information if you’ve been there before. Once that’s done, you’ll sit in the waiting area until it’s your turn.

The Dental Hygienist

A dental hygienist will usually be the one to clean your teeth. Hygienists are specially trained to clean teeth, check for signs of problems, and teach you how to take care of your oral health at home. They wear gloves, masks, and sometimes face shields to keep everything clean and safe.


Sometimes, especially if it’s your first visit or if you haven’t had X-rays in a while, the hygienist might take X-rays of your mouth. X-rays help the dentist see what’s happening inside your teeth and below your gums. You will wear a heavy vest to protect your body from the X-ray radiation, and the hygienist will place a small piece of plastic in your mouth for you to bite down on while the machine takes pictures.

Examining Your Mouth

Before starting the cleaning, the hygienist will examine your mouth. They will use a small mirror to look at your teeth and gums closely. They might also measure the spaces between your teeth and gums with a tiny ruler called a probe. This helps them check for gum disease.

Removing Plaque and Tartar

The first step in the cleaning process is removing plaque and tartar from your teeth. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on your teeth every day. If you don’t brush and floss well, plaque can harden into tartar, which is much tougher to remove. The hygienist will use special tools called scalers to scrape away plaque and tartar. You might hear some scraping sounds, but this is normal.

Cleaning with Gritty Toothpaste

After the tartar is removed, the hygienist will clean your teeth with a high-powered electric toothbrush and gritty toothpaste. This toothpaste is like a super scrubber that helps clean and polish your teeth. It might taste a little different from the toothpaste you use at home, and the toothbrush can make a loud noise, but it doesn’t hurt.

Flossing Your Teeth

Next, the hygienist will floss your teeth. This step is important because it helps remove any leftover plaque or toothpaste from between your teeth. The hygienist might also give you tips on how to floss better at home.

Final Check by the Dentist

After the cleaning, the dentist will come in to check your teeth and gums. They will look at the X-rays (if you had them taken) and examine your mouth to make sure everything is healthy. The dentist will also check for cavities, gum disease, and other issues. If they find any problems, they will talk to you about the next steps, such as filling a cavity or treating gum disease.