If you develop a cavity or toothache or notice anything out of the ordinary with your smile, you should call Sierra Oaks Dental at (916) 481-2000 to make an appointment with our dentist. Many problems with your dental health can be addressed early or even avoided altogether by seeing Dr. Peter Kim for regular dental cleanings and exams in Sacramento, California.

What Is a Dental Cleaning?

A dental cleaning, also known as a clinical hygiene visit, is an appointment with a registered dental hygienist. During a clinical hygiene visit, the hygienist will clean the plaque and tartar from your teeth. Everyone has different amounts of tartar and plaque so they may qualify for different types of cleanings.

During a hygiene visit, the hygienist will probe your pockets, the areas between your teeth and gums, to search for gum recession, which is a symptom of many issues in the mouth. The hygienist will also polish the teeth and apply fluoride varnish to protect the teeth depending on the patient’s preferences.

The Types of Dental Cleanings

  • Prophylaxis — a standard dental hygiene visit. This treatment is intended for patients with good overall oral health.
  • Debridement — a type of cleaning that focuses on heavy tartar build up above the gumlines.
  • Periodontal Maintenance — a more comprehensive oral hygiene visit. This type of cleaning is intended for patients with moderate to severe periodontitis. These patients should already have had scaling and root planing treatment when they were originally diagnosed with periodontitis to return their teeth to a point of proper oral health care.
  • Scaling and Root Planing — a dental hygiene visit that is focused on scaling and planing the roots of the teeth, also referred to as a deep cleaning at times. During this procedure, the dental hygienist cleans the tartar buildup along the roots of the teeth below the gum line.

Why Are Dental Cleanings Important?

Dental cleanings are critical to preventative care. Proper brushing and flossing are important to our oral health, but these techniques cannot remove all the bacteria in our mouth, such as what gets trapped below the gum line. Seeing a dental hygienist twice a year, at minimum, is essential to limit tartar buildup in the hard to reach places of our mouth.

Benefits of Dental Cleanings

Dental cleanings help keep our smiles bright and our breath fresh. Regular visits to a dental hygienist are critical to benchmarking at-home oral care. Sometimes we may brush too hard or too soft, or we may not be using proper flossing techniques. A dental hygienist will be able to examine your teeth and tell you if any of these are factors in your home care.

Visits to the office for dental cleanings are also critical to ensuring any restoration treatment we have done is still holding strong. A hygienist will be able to tell if tooth decay has progressed even after a filling, crown or root canal was finished. Protect your teeth and your investment by visiting a dental hygienist on a regular schedule.

The Process of an Average Dental Cleaning at Sierra Oaks Dental

The visit with the dental hygienist will start with intraoral photographs and any necessary X-rays. If time is available and the patient opts for it, an oral cancer screening will also be conducted at this time.

Next, the hygienist will probe the gums and measure the depth of the pockets along the gums to determine the health status of the gums.

After probing, the hygienist will use the ultrasonic scaling tool to break down tartar buildup. Once this is completed, the hygienist will use a hand scaling tool to smooth the tooth.

After scaling is completed, the hygienist will floss between the patient’s teeth. Then, the teeth will be polished to remove fine stains. Finally, a fluoride varnish is applied to the teeth to protect against acid from the bacteria in the mouth or acidic foods and drinks in the patient’s diet.


A debridement is a preliminary cleaning of the tartar above the gum line for patients with a heavy buildup of tartar. This process of cleaning occurs before scaling and root planing or periodontal maintenance, so that during these treatments the hygienist can focus their attention below the gum line.

Scaling and Root Planing

Scaling and root planing treatment is provided to patients who have deep pockets and periodontitis. This form of a cleaning is 100% below the gum line and focuses on removing tartar and bacteria destroying bone surfaces that surround the teeth.

This treatment is typically provided once to a patient, but if the patient does not keep up with at home care and routine maintenance then multiple scaling and root planing treatments may be necessary.

We also accompany this treatment with laser decontamination to kill practically all of the bad bacteria hiding between the gums and teeth. The bacteria that negatively affects our gums prefers to hide out in the dark and damp spots which are below the gum line, and this laser technology helps us reach those areas.

Periodontal Maintenance

Periodontal maintenance is a routine cleaning where the hygienist applies more attention to the area below the gum line than they would in a prophylaxis. Once a patient has had a scaling and root planing treatment, they will receive periodontal maintenance visits instead of routine prophylaxis cleanings.

These more extensive cleanings help fight gum recession and stops the progression of bone loss. It is recommended that patients who require periodontal maintenance visits receive three to four cleanings a year.

If you have any additional questions about dental cleanings, please contact us today! A member of our team will be happy to tell you more and help you get ready for your appointment!