Most dentists recommend that their patients have their teeth cleaned once a year, normally during a dental checkup. For individuals who practice good oral hygiene, dentists believe that once a year is more than enough to adequately monitor a person's oral health. Patients who are prone to periodontal disease or other conditions that affect the mouth may need to be seen more frequently. This is especially true for patients who have had oral cancer. Dental cleanings involve removing the plaque that builds up on teeth if they are not brushed and flossed regularly. At the yearly cleaning, the dentist will point out to the patient where their problem areas are and how to address them.
Dental checkups include an oral examination of the soft tissues, teeth, and tongue. X-rays of the teeth can be taken to determine if any cracks or cavities are present. The doctor will also perform oral cancer screenings to check for any abnormal cells that could indicate cancer may be a possibility. A dental hygienist will clean the teeth, scraping away any plaque build up, and flossing carefully between the teeth to ensure all particles and debris have been removed. Children and adults alike are given fluoride treatments to protect the delicate enamel that covers the outer area of the tooth. The dentist will discuss his findings with the patient and subsequent appointments will be made if necessary.
A dental cleaning normally takes less than an hour. In most cases, the part of the exam that takes the longest amount of time is the cleaning performed by the dental hygienist. Most fluoride treatments take five to ten minutes. The consultation with the dentist only lasts a few minutes as well, unless problems were found during the examination and future appointments need to be made. During the consultation is when the patient should discuss their concerns with the dentist.