What Happens During a Tooth Cleaning Session

If you have ever been to the dentist, the chances are that you are apprehensive about tooth cleaning. This is because, sometimes, it seems like an uncomfortable process with lots of prodding. However, in most cases, tooth cleaning is a painless exercise. Understanding what happens during a dental cleaning session can make you feel more at ease. In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about it.

If you are looking for a dentist Malta or dentist Gozo, you can book a dental appointment online at one of Savina Dental Clinics, or contact us directly on (+356) 2125 7253 (Skyparks Business Centre, Malta International Airport), or (+356) 2155 7323 (Dingli Street, Victoria, Gozo). For international patients, it is recommended to request a free e-consultation where we can discuss your individual case and treatment options.

Why dental cleaning is important

Dentists have linked poor oral hygiene to a host of dental issues and other serious health problems. No matter how well you clean your teeth, you might be missing something. Dental professionals can help bridge the gap in terms of dental hygiene. They have the tools to remove the stains that regular brushing and flossing will not, and leave you with a brighter smile. Additionally, tooth cleaning can help prevent gum disease and premature loss of teeth.

Medical practitioners have linked gum disease with cardiovascular problems. If you scheduled at least two teeth cleaning sessions a year, you could reduce the chances of getting a stroke and heart attack.

In the long run, you could save a lot of money spent on rectifying future dental issues. How? During a dental cleaning, the dentist may identify other problems such as fractures, cavities, and so on, and take care of them before managing them gets out of hand.

Does tooth cleaning hurt?

Usually, tooth cleaning should not hurt at all. Nonetheless, other complications occur, which could lead to pain. For instance, if you have oral conditions such as inflamed gums and tooth sensitivity, you might experience some pain. The good thing is that you can talk to your dental hygienist in advance. This way, you can express any concerns on dental issues that you may have so that the dentist can use the appropriate anaesthetics.

What to expect during tooth cleaning?

What to expect during tooth cleaning - savina dental clinics malta

Initial physical assessment

Before the dental hygienist begins the cleaning process, they start by conducting a physical evaluation. At this point, they concentrate on the condition of your teeth and gums. The ultimate objective is to identify the areas that need the most attention.

At the same time, the dental hygienist also focuses on identifying certain underlying problems. Early diagnosis could help prevent issues such as cavities or worn-out fillings.

Scaling – removal of plaque and tartar

Plaque is a colourless notorious film of harmful bacteria that engulfs your teeth when you don’t clean them well. If left on the surface of your teeth for a long time, it causes tooth decay, cavities, gingivitis, tartar accumulation and so on. The good news is that professional cleaning could help prevent these unpleasant eventualities.

The tooth cleaning process is relatively straightforward. For most of it, the dentist will use a dental scaler, usually an ultrasonic, to remove tartar and plaque. This is special equipment that can reach between your teeth and remove all the dirt. Manual scalers are also used in certain instances.

This process feels as if it’s scraping. Your hygienist may scrape one spot for a long time. Usually, this means that lots of tartar has accumulated in this area.


Dental hygienists use a motor-driven brush to polish your teeth after removing tartar and plaque. The brush is somewhat noisy (it feels like an electric toothbrush), but it removes any plaque and stains left behind by the scaler.

Dentists use a special polishing paste with this brush that smells and tastes like ordinary toothpaste. This paste comes in different flavours, and the dentist may give you various options to choose from. Due to its grittiness, it scrubs your teeth, leaving your mouth with a fresh and rejuvenating feeling.

Root surface debridement (RSD)

If you don’t brush your teeth properly, plaque may build up along your gum line. After some time, it hardens and becomes tartar. Tartar first starts accumulating at and above gum line, but if neglected it can push its way downwards causing periodontitis. This feels similar to a routine scaling in general but is carried out using different instrument tips that can reach below gum line and into the irregularities in the teeth shapes to clean tartar that is beyond the reach of a standard scaling tip. Local anaesthetic is applied to make the procedure comfortable as this treatment is aimed at cleaning tartar that has built up quite far down along the root surface. It also takes a longer time to carry out thoroughly so it is normally carried out over more than one session.

So, when is RSD necessary? RSD is typical for patients with periodontitis. Think of it as a deep cleaning procedure to try to re-establish gum health and prevent further deterioration.


dental flossing - savina dental clinics malta

Although very beneficial, flossing is not carried out as routinely by patients as one may think. Some claim they don’t have the patience, some claim it hurts their gums, some say they don’t know how. The hygienist is the ideal person to teach you how to floss in an effective, pain-free manner. If flossing is still not for you, they can recommend other interdental cleaning aids that may be simpler to use and are just as effective. You would be surprised to see what remains between your teeth even after brushing properly for 2 minutes so getting into the habit of using interdental aids would work wonders to improve your overall oral health and prevent certain dental problems such as decay.


After polishing, the hygienist will ask you to rinse several times to get rid of the gritty polishing paste, thus leaving your mouth feeling fresh and your teeth feeling smooth.

Fluoride treatment, if required

For many years, water treatment plants have added some fluoride to water to reduce the chances of tooth decay. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that this exercise has reduced tooth decay by a staggering 25%. Therefore, fluoride is an integral part of the professional dental cleaning process. It is especially invaluable to people who are likely to experience tooth decay.

The polishing paste used after your scaling is normally fluoridated. However, certain specific situations may require the application of a high dose fluoride varnish or gel after the polishing procedure to treat certain dental conditions. These include hypersensitivity and patients who have a high rate of tooth decay.

After rinsing your mouth, your hygienist will move forward with a fluoride treatment. Your dentist or dental hygienist uses concentrated fluoride to administer this treatment. It is similar to the fluoride found in regular toothpaste, but dental hygienists use it in higher dosages that cannot be bought over-the-counter and are not meant to be administered on a daily basis. The fluoride will be in the form of a varnish, gel, or solution and your hygienist will use a brush or swab to apply it on your teeth gently.

The whole process takes a few minutes, and your dentist may advise you not to eat or drink anything for about 1 hour after fluoride treatment. You will not be able to rinse again after the treatment has been administered so as not to wash it away.

If you have read this article to this point, you now understand the importance of a tooth cleaning session. Schedule a dentist appointment today, and have an expert clean your teeth for a brighter smile.

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Savina Clinic – Dental & Implantology Centres are friendly, state-of-the-art practices in Malta and Gozo dedicated to comprehensive quality dental care. Savina Dental is an innovative dental practice in Malta and prides itself on the high-quality customer service, low waiting room times, attention to detail and the advanced dental technology at its disposal.

Joseph Xuereb
Principal Dental Surgeon & Owner of Savina Dental Clinics, Dr Joseph Xuereb BChD (Hons), MFGDP(UK), MGDS RCS(Eng), FFGDP RCS(UK), FICD is a general dental practitioner with a special interest in Implant and Restorative Dentistry. Dr Joseph & the teams' full biographical information can be found here.