What’s the Difference? Teeth Cleaning vs Whitening

Teeth cleaning and teeth whitening are two types of dental procedures that confuse patients. However, these procedures and their goals are actually quite different. The primary goal of teeth cleaning is to remove plaque and tartar from the surface of the teeth, in order to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. The main objective of teeth whitening is to remove stains for cosmetic purposes. Teeth cleaning is important for the ongoing health of your teeth and gums, whereas teeth whitening procedures are purely cosmetic.

At Molars Dental Clinic, we are happy to give you a better idea of how these procedures differ and which may be better suited to your needs. We’re available for same day cleaning appointments and dental checkups. Call us today on 0751 856 900/ 0796 856 900 for more info.

​Professional Teeth Cleanings

Professional cleanings are typically performed to clean and polish teeth. The dentists generally recommend a thorough and professional cleaning every 6 months, though some patients may need cleanings more often if they are prone to decay or have a history of gum disease.

​Types of Teeth Cleaning

  1. Prophylaxis
    • Prophylaxis is a fancy name for a routine teeth cleaning procedure. This is the standard type of cleaning procedure that most patients undergo every 6 months or so at Molars.

      Typically, prophylaxis starts with your dentist using a series of scrapers and picks to remove tartar and plaque from your teeth. Plague is the sticky substance that you regularly brush off with your toothbrush. It is a combination of sugars, bacteria, and the acid that bacteria secrete. If left on your teeth for too long, it hardens into a substance called tartar, which cannot be removed with brushing alone — only with a dentists specialized tools. Tartar often forms along the gumline and along the sides of teeth where they meet.

      When your dentist is finished gently scraping tartar from teeth, he or she will generally use a polishing tool to remove surface stains and any lingering plaque from the teeth’s surface. This polishing tool is generally made from a firm rubberized material, and spins in a circle to polish teeth. We will complete the cleaning procedure by flossing between your teeth to remove any lingering buildup.

      Though some patients may feel slight discomfort during prophylaxis, particularly if the gums are sore due to gingivitis, the procedure is relatively painless and therefore no anesthesia or numbing agents are required. You can expect your prophylaxis treatment to take about 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the amount of tartar accumulation you have and amount of time between cleaning appointments.
  • Root Scaling and Planing
  1. Root scaling and planing is sometimes called “deep cleaning” or “advanced cleaning.” This type of cleaning procedure is often recommended for patients who are showing signs of gum disease. Gum disease is an infection of the gums that results in swelling, soreness, and the development of pockets between the gums and teeth. It is caused by plaque and tartar that have not been removed with good dental hygiene and regular prophylaxis.

    Root scaling is performed with similar tools to prophylaxis, but we will use the scalers to clean below the gum line. Local anesthetic is generally used to numb the area that’s being cleaned. With advanced gum disease cases, you may need to come back for several scaling appointments. Your dentist will focus on one segment of your mouth at each appointment.

    Gums are likely to be sore and sensitive once the anesthesia wears off following your root scaling procedure. However, with proper brushing, flossing, and mouthwash use, this soreness (and your gum disease) should begin to subside.

    Some signs that you may need a dental scaling procedure, rather than just standard prophylaxis, include:
    1. Your gums are red, swollen, and sore.
    2. Your gums bleed whenever you brush or floss.
    3. Your teeth have begun to feel loose in your jaw.
    4. You can see pockets forming between your teeth and gums.
    5. You have chronic bad breath that does not go away after brushing, flossing, or using mouthwash.

​Goals and Benefits of Teeth Cleaning

After you have your teeth cleaned, you are likely to notice that they are a bit whiter. This is because the tartar that we removes has a yellow tint to it. However, whiter teeth are not the primary goal of dental teeth cleanings (but rather a positive side effect). The primary goals of prophylaxis and deep cleanings when needed are:

  • ​Prevention of tooth decay that results from excessive plaque and tartar buildup.
  • Prevention and relief from gum disease.
  • Relief from bad breath.
  • Detection of more serious dental issues. We will screen your mouth for signs of decay, oral cancer, and other problems during and after your cleaning appointment.

Regular preventative dental care can go a long way towards limiting cavities and tooth loss down the road.

​Why Teeth Whitening?

Teeth whitening is actually a group of procedures that can be conducted with the goal of yielding whiter, brighter teeth. At Molars we remove stains caused by coffee, red wine, smoking, and general exposure to food and plaque over a lifetime. These procedures do not have specific health benefits, but rather they are performed for cosmetic purposes.

It’s common for patients to wonder if they should have their teeth cleaned prior to getting a whitening procedure performed. In most cases, the answer is “yes.” As mentioned above, dental cleaning does often result in somewhat whiter teeth. Plus, many whitening treatments are more effective on clean teeth.

​Types of Teeth Whitening

There are several different types of teeth whitening treatments, some of which are performed at home and others that can only be administered by a professional Molars dentist. Teeth whitening is generally safe. However, if you have a history of tooth sensitivity or weak enamel, you may not be a good candidate. If you choose to undergo a professional whitening treatment, we first evaluate the condition of your teeth to make sure it’s safe to proceed. If you want to use over-the-counter whitening strips and trays, it’s a good idea to check with us before you begin using these products.

To help you decide which type of whitening treatment is right for you, here’s a closer look at the most common options –

  1. ​Over-The-Counter Whitening Strips and Trays
    • You can find numerous brands of whitening strips and trays available over-the-counter at our facilities.
    • Over-the-counter whitening strips and trays may be the best teeth whitening treatment if you only wish to lighten your teeth a few shades without deep-set stains to worry about. Our dentists recommend using an ADA approved kit, and strictly adhering to the instructions.

      The best time to begin using over-the-counter whitening trays or strips is after your biannual teeth cleaning appointment. This way, the bleaching agents will have better contact with your newly cleaned teeth.
  1. ​In-Office Laser Bleaching
    • If you have more serious dental staining or very yellow teeth, the best teeth whitening treatment is one performed by your dentist. Laser bleaching is one of the most common in-office whitening treatments offered by us.

      During the procedure, a bleaching agent will be applied to your teeth, and then a special laser will be aimed at your smile to activate the bleaching product. Dramatic results can be seen in as little as one appointment. If you have stubborn stains or desire very dramatic results, your dentist may re-apply the bleach and activate it with the laser several times during one session.

      Your tooth whitening procedure will typically take one to two hours, depending on the exact process your dentist recommends.

​Goals and Benefits of Teeth Whitening

The primary benefit of teeth whitening is, of course, a whiter and brighter smile. This can boost your self-confidence and also help inspire you to take better care of your teeth going forward! If you are proud of your white, bright smile, you may be more inspired to brush, floss, and schedule cleaning appointments every 6 months. By keeping your teeth clean and avoiding foods that stain (think coffee and wine), your whitening results should last for years.

Some reasons you may want to undergo teeth whitening include:

  • ​You are embarrassed to smile because of yellow or stain teeth.
  • You have been using whitening toothpastes and rinses but have not noticed an improvement.
  • You have a special occasion (like a wedding or graduation) coming up, and you want to look your very best.

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