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How long does a dental exam take? Does a dental cleaning hurt? Can I get my teeth cleaned while pregnant? At Carolina Oaks Dental Care in Anderson, SC, we get these kinds of questions a lot from our patients.

We know that understanding the what and why behind preventative care can go a long way in alleviating any anxiety you may be feeling and in motivating you to keep up with routine visits. To help, Dr. Vaughn Layne and her team will be covering 10 common questions about dental exams and cleanings. 

  • How often do I need a dental cleaning and exam?

It’s recommended that kids and adults have a dental cleaning and exam every six months. Sometimes, if you have special oral health considerations, you’ll need more frequent exams, but for most people, twice a year is ideal.

  • How long does a dental exam take?

The dental exam itself usually only takes a few minutes. The rest of the appointment is dedicated to the cleaning, x-rays (if needed) and consultation with Dr. Layne. How long does a dental cleaning take? While it will depend on your needs, a dental cleaning takes about 30 minutes on average. The entire check-up will last an hour to an hour and a half. 

  • What happens during a dental exam?

At your dental exam, a Carolina Oaks team member will take quick digital x-rays, if indicated. Our Anderson, SC general dentist will look at your x-rays and dental and medical history before performing an oral exam. 

During the examination, she’ll assess the health of your teeth and gums, gently feel around your head and neck, evaluate your bite and ensure any restorations like fillings and crowns are in good shape. 

Dr. Layne will wrap things up discussing the results of your x-rays and exam, answering your questions and offering personalized recommendations for optimal oral health. If she spots a problem, she’ll walk you through the diagnosis and work with you to create a treatment plan. 

  • What does the dental cleaning procedure involve?

One of our experienced dental hygienists will perform your teeth cleaning. They’ll start by chatting with you about concerns you’re having. Then, they’ll take a close look at your teeth and gums.

The hygienist will use a special tool to remove soft plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) from your teeth and just under the gum line. They’ll floss, brush and then polish your teeth. Finally, they may or may not apply a topical fluoride treatment. 

  • Does a dental cleaning hurt?

A standard dental cleaning isn’t painful for most patients. If you have particularly sensitive teeth and gums or certain dental conditions, there could be some mild discomfort during the process. If that’s the case, you can take an over-the-counter pain reliever like Advil an hour prior to your cleaning. You can also ask us about other options to put you at ease. 

It’s important to note that the more frequently you have dental cleanings, the more comfortable they’ll be. This is because, the longer you go in between teeth cleanings, the more plaque build-up and potential gum inflammation you’ll have.

  • How long after a dental cleaning can I eat?

If you had a fluoride treatment, wait at least 30 minutes before eating to give the fluoride enough time to work its cavity-preventing magic. If you didn’t have a fluoride treatment, you can eat right after a dental cleaning. 

  • Do I need a dental exam if my teeth are healthy?

Absolutely. Your dentist looks at more than just your teeth during an exam. They also assess your gums, soft tissues of the mouth, and your head and neck. This allows them to spot signs of gum disease, oral cancer and other health conditions. 

Why is early detection essential? Gingivitis, which is the mildest form of gum disease, is reversible. Once it progresses to periodontitis, it can cause tooth loss, jawbone loss and inflammation. At that point, it can be managed but not cured. Oral cancer is also treatable in its early stages, but has a high mortality rate, because it’s often caught late. 

Even unrelated health conditions, including diabetes and osteoporosis, are sometimes detected first by a dentist. In fact, many systemic diseases have symptoms that show up in the mouth. 

As if those weren’t reasons enough to keep up with regular dental check-ups, just because your teeth don’t hurt and they look healthy, doesn’t always mean they are. By seeing a dentist every six months, there will be a baseline to compare to and the dentist will be able to diagnose tooth decay while treatment is still easy, affordable and quick. 

  • Are dental cleanings really necessary?

Yes! Dental cleanings are necessary. During a professional teeth cleaning, the hygienist gets an up-close look at your mouth, letting them spot any potential concerns and point out areas you can improve with your oral hygiene routine. They also use a special tool to scrape off hardened plaque, or tartar. 

Patients sometimes ask, “Can I remove tartar from my teeth without a dentist?” Unfortunately, no. Tartar doesn’t come off of the teeth with a regular toothbrush and dental floss. Buying tools online and trying to do it yourself without the proper training can lead to damaged teeth and gums and infection. 

Aside from the oral health benefits of dental cleanings, you also get a clean that you can’t match at home. We polish your teeth, buffing away surface stains and making enamel smooth and shiny for a brighter smile. 

  • Can I have a dental cleaning while pregnant?

According to the American Pregnancy Association, “Preventive dental cleanings and exams during pregnancy are not only safe but are recommended.” While you can hold off on the x-rays, unless you have a major issue, preventive care will keep teeth and gums healthy and help you avoid infections like gum disease, which is linked to preterm birth and low birth weight. 

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry notes that mothers with poor oral health and high levels of cavity-causing bacteria in their mouths are more likely to infect their children with the bacteria. This increases a child’s risk of developing tooth decay at an early age. For this reason, the organization also recommends pregnant people see the dentist for routine exams and cleanings.

  • How much does a dental exam and cleaning cost?

Because a dental exam and cleaning is considered preventative care, it should be covered by your dental insurance, meaning there will be no out-of-pocket cost. Most plans cover two of these visits per year, but it’s always a good idea to check with your carrier about your specific coverage. 

If you don’t have dental insurance, the cost of a dental exam and cleaning will vary depending on your needs. Humana estimates that the cost runs between $75 and $200 without x-rays for most patients. 

Our Anderson family dentistry practice accepts most insurance plans and we can help you determine your coverage. 

Schedule a Dental Exam and Cleaning in Anderson, SC Today!

Now that you know all about dental cleanings and exams, are you ready to book your own check-up? Schedule a visit at Carolina Oaks Dental Care of Anderson today!

Dr. Layne

Author Dr. Layne

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