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How Long Does a Cleaning at the Dentist Take?

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A female dentist in her scrubs cleaning a male patient's teeth by removing the plaque.

It should go without saying that a professional cleaning at the dentist will take longer than the 2 to 3 minutes you clean them for at home. But wondering how long it will take is a valid concern when planning things like taking time off work.

A cleaning appointment takes 60 minutes on average, but some things can increase or decrease this time. This article reviews what’s typically involved with a dental cleaning and exam and how much the time can vary in different circumstances.

What to Expect From Cleaning Appointment

Each dental office may do things a little bit differently regarding the flow of a cleaning appointment. One thing to remember is that a dental exam is typically done at the same appointment. For ease of reference, we’ll only discuss the cleaning portion here. Below we’ll review how the exam may increase the appointment length.

The average dental cleaning includes:

  • The dental hygienist will likely examine your whole mouth before they begin cleaning. This ensures there are no glaring problems the dentist needs to address before the hygienist can clean.
  • Next, the hygienist will typically use a dental tool called a scaler. They use this to scrape plaque and tartar on your tooth, especially around the gum line. Generally, this process has little to no discomfort, but that can depend on how much tartar buildup there is.
  • A professional polishing is usually next. The hygienist will use a powerful electric toothbrush designed to deep clean each tooth with a special toothpaste. You’ll notice this is probably a more aggressive cleaning than you do at home. When done twice a year, this form of polishing and cleaning is safe for the enamel on your teeth.
  • Once the teeth are clean, the dental floss comes out. If you’re already used to flossing regularly, this won’t be an issue. After the flossing, you’ll get something to rinse your mouth out.
  • The final step in the cleaning is typically a fluoride treatment. To help bolster the strength of the enamel on your teeth.

How Often Should You See the Dentist?

The minimum frequency, as recommended by the Canadian Dental Association, is twice a year. But it’s worth mentioning that your dentist will consider your overall oral health and things like how fast tartar builds up on your teeth or underlying issues. So, they may recommend a more frequent schedule.

A senior woman sitting on a dental chair is looking at her teeth in the mirror after several minutes of dental cleaning.

How Long Does a Cleaning Take?

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, a dental cleaning will typically take on average an hour. One of the biggest things affecting this timing is how much work is needed.

For example, cleaning will typically take less time if you have a solid daily routine of caring for your teeth. But if the hygienist needs to spend extra time scraping tartar from your teeth, it will run longer.

Another thing that may affect the length is a dentist’s physical examination of your mouth. In most cases, a dental exam and professional cleaning go hand in hand. There’s no good way to estimate how long this could take because it will vary between each person.

The dentist will check for problems and potential problems, things like the beginning of tooth decay or cavities.

X-rays are typically taken once a year instead of every 6 months. So, at least 1 cleaning appointment per year will likely take a little bit longer due to getting updated x-rays.

Preparing for a Dental Cleaning

If you want to minimize the amount of time you need to spend in the dentist’s chair, there are a few things that you can do to make the process as quick and smooth as possible:

  • Brush and floss: Some people incorrectly believe you shouldn’t eat before a dental appointment. Eating beforehand is a good idea in most cases. Being hungry can increase the potential for dental anxiety. With that in mind, ensure you brush and floss well after the meal because that will increase the time the hygienist needs to spend cleaning your teeth.
  • Avoid alcohol: Most people wouldn’t consider drinking during the day. But with the prevalence of dental anxiety, it’s not that unheard of. A bit of alcohol usually won’t be a problem for a normal exam and cleaning. However, if the dentist needs to sedate you or give you medication, alcohol could be an issue.
  • Minimal makeup: Because the area around your mouth could get messy during the cleaning, avoiding things like lipstick or foundation is a good idea. Things like eyeliner or eyeshadow should be fine. If unsure, give your dental office a call beforehand.

Booking Your Next Dental Cleaning

A dental exam or cleaning shouldn’t be a stressful experience. If you have more questions or are ready to book your next appointment, call us at Rockwood Dental. Our professional staff is happy to answer your questions and book you in to see one of our dentists. 

Written by Rockwood Dental

At Rockwood Dental, our goal is to help you achieve the healthy and beautiful smile you’ve always dreamed of.

Our team is committed to providing a personalized dental experience from beginning to end. To do this, we offer a range of dental services, including preventative dental care, restorative dental care, and cosmetic dental care.

Rockwood Dental is located at #102, 1032 17th ave., between 9th and 10th Street SW in Calgary.

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