Teeth Cleaning / Hygiene and Treatment for Gum Disease


Gum disease affects most children and adults. It has relatively few symptom but lots of signs such as bleeding on brushing, puffy or red gums, receding gums, staining of teeth or a build up of harmful bacteria known as plaque or tartar. Gum disease can also be a cause of bad breath.

Daily cleaning of harmful bacteria by brushing and flossing twice a day is a recommended, ideally with an electric tooth brush. For more stubborn hardened tartar (calculus), six monthly teeth cleaning is carried out by a dentist or hygienist. Teeth cleaning/hygiene  involves removing plaque (a soft, sticky mix of  bacteria and sugar) and tartar (calculus) deposits that have built up on the teeth over time. Your teeth are continually bathed in saliva which contains calcium and other substances which help strengthen and protect the teeth. While this is a good thing, it also means that we tend to get a build-up of calcium deposits on the teeth. This chalky substance will eventually build up over time, like limescale in water pipes or kettles. Usually it is tooth coloured and can easily be mistaken as part of the teeth, but it also can vary from brown to black in colour.

If tartar (calculus)  is allowed to accumulate on the teeth it will unfortunately provide the right conditions for bacteria to thrive next to the gums. The purpose of the cleaning and polishing is basically to leave the surfaces of the teeth clean and smooth so that bacteria are unable to stick to them and you have a better chance of keeping the teeth clean during your regular home care.

Also it leaves your teeth feeling lovely and smooth and clean, which is nice when you run your tongue around them.

The professional cleaning of teeth is sometimes referred to as prophylaxis (or prophy for short). It’s a Greek word which means “to prevent beforehand” – in this case, it helps prevent gum disease. If bacteria are allowed to over grow and penetrate beneath the gum line, a more aggressive form of gum disease can occur called periodontal disease. Periodontal disease causes the bone holding the teeth into the jaws to become infected and eventually lost resulting in loosening of the teeth which may have to be extracted. In Australia, the most common reason for a tooth being extracted is through gum disease.

How is cleaning carried out?

Teeth cleaning uses specialised instruments to gently remove deposits of food, plaque (sticky bacteria) and tartar without harming the teeth leaving the teeth clean. A final polishing with a fluoride based toothpaste is use to leave the teeth feeling smooth and shiny.

Ultrasonic instruments

Commonly used first is an ultrasonic instrument which uses tickling vibrations to knock larger pieces of tartar loose. It also sprays a cooling mist of water while it works to wash away debris and keep the area at a proper temperature. The device typically emits a humming or high pitched whistling sound. This may seem louder than it actually is because the sound may get amplified inside your head, just like when you put an electric toothbrush into your mouth.

The ultrasonic instrument tips are curved and rounded and are always kept in motion around the teeth. Their purpose is to knock tartar/scale loose. Teeth can sometime be sensitive when being cleaned and we can also provide numbing to make cleaning more comfortable.

With larger deposits that have hardened onto the teeth, it can take some time to remove these, just like trying to remove baked-on grime on a stove that has been left over a long time. So your first cleaning may take longer than future cleanings. Imagine not cleaning a house for six months versus cleaning it every week. The six-month job is going to take longer than doing smaller weekly jobs.


Once all the surfaces are smooth, we polish your teeth. Polishing is done using a  a soft rubber cup that spins very much like that of an electric toothbrush. Prophylaxis (short for prophy) paste – a special gritty toothpaste-like material – is scooped up like ice cream into the cup and spun around on the teeth to make them shiny smooth.

Is it going to be painful?

Most people find that cleanings are painless, and find the sensations described above – tickling vibrations, the cooling mist of water do not cause discomfort. A lot of people even report that they enjoy cleanings and the lovely smooth feel of their teeth afterwards!

If you are looking for more regular check up and cleaning, why not join our Care Plan to help save you money and spread the cost of treatment. Our Care Plan costs just $30 /month and includes two check ups, two cleaning visits, and X-rays each year.


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