How Long Does A Dental Cleaning Take? (2023 Guide)

Learn about the factors affecting the duration of dental cleanings, such as dental health, plaque buildup, and appointment types, and how to prepare for your visit in our all-in-one 2023 guide.

9 min readHow Long Does a Dental Cleaning Take?

Are you tired of the mystery surrounding dental appointments and wondering how much time you'll have to invest in your oral hygiene? Fear no more! In this all-in-one guide for 2023, we're taking the guesswork out of dental cleanings by answering the question on everyone's mind: "How long does a dental cleaning take?"

Gone are the days of uncertainty and endless waiting in the dentist's office. In just a few moments, you'll have a clear understanding of what to expect, the factors that influence the duration of a dental cleaning, and how to prepare for your appointment. It's time to make dental cleanings a breeze, and this guide is here to help you every step of the way.

How Often Should You Get A Dental Cleaning?

Dentists generally recommend scheduling dental cleanings every six months to ensure optimal oral health. However, it is important to heed your dentist's guidance, as they will have a more accurate assessment of your unique dental situation.

Some individuals may require more frequent visits due to specific oral health concerns, while others may only need to schedule an annual cleaning to maintain their dental health. If teeth color is what’s most important to you, for instance, many people space out their dental visits and simply apply at-home teeth whitening remedies in the meantime. Or if you have braces, for instance, your dentist may ask you to come more often (keeping clean teeth with braces is notoriously difficult).

Importance Of Dental Cleanings

Dental cleanings are a vital component of any oral hygiene routine. They allow a dental professional to remove plaque and tartar build-up that cannot be eliminated through regular brushing and flossing at home. Dental cleanings also help prevent cavities, gum disease, and various other potential dental issues while promoting overall oral health.

Typical Duration Of A Dental Cleaning

The length of a dental cleaning appointment varies depending on several factors, such as the individual's oral health, the extent of cleaning required, and whether any additional services or treatments are needed. However, standard dental cleanings usually take between 30 minutes to one hour.

During a regular dental cleaning, the dental hygienist or dentist will perform services such as:

  • Examining your teeth and gums for signs of any dental issues
  • Removing plaque and tartar build-up
  • Polishing your teeth for a healthy, shiny appearance
  • Fluoride treatments or dental sealants, if necessary

In some cases, a dental cleaning may take longer if it has been a while since your last appointment or if you require more intensive cleaning, such as a scaling and root planing procedure for the treatment of gum disease.

Why Are Dental Cleanings Essential For Maintaining Oral And General Health?

Dental cleanings play a crucial role in maintaining both your oral and general health, offering numerous benefits beyond the surface of your teeth. In this section, we will discuss in detail the various advantages associated with regular dental cleanings and how they will positively impact your overall well-being.

  • Removing Plaque and Tartar: Dental cleanings effectively remove plaque (a sticky film of bacteria that accumulates on teeth) and tartar (hardened plaque) from the surface of your teeth, including areas that are difficult to reach through regular brushing and flossing. Removing plaque and tartar is essential for preventing tooth decay and gum diseases caused by bacterial buildup.
  • Early Detection of Dental Issues: Regular dental cleanings offer an opportunity for dental professionals to examine your teeth and gums thoroughly, helping to identify potential issues such as cavities, gum problems, or even oral cancer before they escalate into more significant problems that require extensive treatments.
  • Preventing Gum Diseases and Tooth Decay: By removing plaque, tartar, and bacteria, dental cleanings aid in preventing various gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis. They also prevent tooth decay by getting rid of harmful bacteria that cause cavities, ensuring that your teeth remain strong and healthy.
  • Maintaining Fresh Breath and Helping Improve Your Smile: Dental cleanings help eliminate bacteria and food particles that contribute to bad breath, leaving your mouth feeling clean and your breath fresh. Furthermore, regular cleanings remove surface stains on your teeth, resulting in a brighter and more confident smile.
  • Promoting Overall Health: Regular dental cleanings substantively contribute to better overall health as they help reduce the risk of systemic diseases linked to poor oral health. For instance, gum diseases have been connected to heart diseases, diabetes, and even certain types of cancer. By maintaining good oral health through regular cleanings, you are also effectively supporting your general well-being.

In conclusion, maintaining a consistent oral hygiene routine - including regular dental cleanings - is essential for preserving the health of your teeth, gums, and overall well-being, ensuring that your smile remains healthy and shining throughout your life.

How Long Should A Teeth Cleaning Take?

There’s more to the dental cleaning cost than just money – your time is valuable, too.

The duration of a teeth cleaning procedure depends on a variety of factors that contribute to the complexity and overall oral health of the patient. In this section, we'll outline these influencing factors and provide you with a better idea of how long you should expect a dental cleaning to take.

Factors Affecting The Duration Of Teeth Cleaning

  1. The amount of plaque and tartar build-up: The accumulation of plaque and tartar on your teeth is a primary factor in determining the time it takes to clean them. Patients with high levels of build-up may require more time to remove the deposits and restore their teeth to a healthy condition.
  2. The patient's oral hygiene habits: An individual who practices regular and effective oral hygiene generally has cleaner teeth, which results in a shorter cleaning time. Conversely, those who neglect their dental hygiene may require a longer cleaning due to the increased presence of plaque and tartar.
  3. The presence of gum disease or other oral health issues: Patients with existing gum diseases, such as gingivitis or periodontitis, may require additional time for their dental cleaning. This is because these conditions often lead to an increased accumulation of plaque and tartar, and may necessitate more in-depth cleanings to address the disease.
  4. The type of dental cleaning being performed: There are different types of dental cleanings available, and each has varying time requirements. A standard dental cleaning, also known as prophylaxis, is typically recommended for patients with healthy gums and relatively low amounts of plaque and tartar. However, for individuals experiencing gum disease or greater build-up, a more specialized cleaning technique known as scaling and root planing may be necessary. This type of deep cleaning takes longer than a standard cleaning, sometimes requiring multiple appointments.

An In-Depth Look At Steps Of A Regular Dental Cleaning

While each dentist's particular approach may vary slightly, dental cleanings typically consist of these four primary steps. By understanding each step of the procedure, you better anticipate what to expect at your next dental appointment and appreciate the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene.


Scaling is the crucial first step in regular dental cleaning. During this process, the dental hygienist will work meticulously to remove built-up plaque and tartar from the surface of your teeth as well as the gum line. Using specialized instruments such as a scaler or an ultrasonic scaler, the dental hygienist gently and carefully scrapes away any stubborn build-up. This build-up, if left untreated, leads to gum disease and other dental problems – and note that natural teeth whitening remedies rarely solve the root cause, so professional help is necessary. Scaling helps to keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy, preventing future complications.


Once the scaling process is complete, it's time for your teeth to be polished. Polishing not only removes surface stains but also smooths the tooth surface, making it more challenging for plaque and bacteria to adhere to. During this step, the dental hygienist will use a polishing paste alongside a rotating brush or a rubber cup attached to a hand-held device (part of every dentist’s teeth whitening kit). The mixture of the paste and the circular motion of the brush or cup will help eliminate any remaining debris and make your teeth shine. Polishing leaves you with a smooth, clean, and stain-free tooth surface.


Flossing is an essential part of dental cleaning and general oral hygiene. During your dental visit, a dental hygienist will floss your teeth thoroughly, removing any leftover debris and ensuring your gums remain clean and healthy. This step also serves as a valuable reminder of the importance of cleaning your teeth at home. By incorporating flossing into your regular oral care routine, you minimize plaque build-up and reduce the likelihood of developing gum disease.

Fluoride Treatment

The final step in a typical dental cleaning involves the application of fluoride to your teeth. Fluoride is essential for strengthening your tooth enamel, making it more resistant to decay and helping get rid of yellow teeth. During a fluoride treatment, the dental hygienist will usually apply a gel, foam, or varnish to your teeth, asking you to hold the fluoride in your mouth for a brief period so your teeth adequately absorb it. Some forms of fluoride treatments may include flavored teeth whitening options, making the experience more enjoyable.

In conclusion, understanding the steps involved in a regular dental cleaning helps you prepare for your next dental appointment and appreciate the vital role of proper oral hygiene in maintaining your overall dental health.

Now that you know how long a dental cleaning takes, let’s take all the fear out of your exam by answering some of your most pressing questions.

How Do You Reduce The Amount Of Time It Takes For A Typical Dental Cleaning?

In today's fast-paced world, we understand that time is of the essence, and lengthy dental cleaning appointments are a hassle. Thankfully, there are several ways for you to shorten the duration of a typical dental cleaning while still ensuring your teeth receive the professional care they need. This starts by maintaining top-notch oral hygiene habits at home:

  1. Brush at least twice a day for two minutes each time: Proper brushing technique is crucial. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, making sure to brush every surface of each tooth in small, circular motions. This includes the outer, inner, and chewing surfaces, as well as your tongue to control bacteria and maintain fresh breath.
  2. Floss daily to remove debris and plaque from between your teeth: Flossing is a critical step that should never be skipped, as it helps reach places your toothbrush can't. Flossing not only reduces the chances of plaque and tartar build-up but also helps prevent gum disease and tooth decay. When flossing, gently move the floss up and down between each tooth using a 'C' shape motion against the tooth.
  3. Rinse with an antibacterial mouthwash: Using mouthwash after brushing and flossing further helps eliminate bacteria, lessen bad breath, and protect your teeth from decay. Choose a mouthwash with added fluoride and antiseptic properties to help kill bacteria, reduce plaque build-up, and reinforce tooth enamel. Mouthwashes also help relieve pain after teeth cleaning.
  4. Eat a balanced diet and limit sugary snacks and beverages: Diet plays a significant role in dental hygiene. Consuming a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains contributes to a healthy oral environment. On the other hand, reducing your intake of sugary and acidic foods and beverages considerably lowers your risk of cavities, plaque, and tartar accumulation, while minimizing the possibility of sensitive teeth after cleaning.

By diligently following these guidelines, you'll have less plaque and tartar buildup on your teeth. The decreased accumulation means your dentist or dental hygienist will have to spend less time scaling and polishing your teeth during cleaning appointments, ultimately making the process faster and more comfortable.

Is Teeth Cleaning Necessary Every 6 Months?

It's advised by most dentists to get your teeth cleaned every 6 months, but it's really up to your needs. However, getting your mouth checked twice a year is a good timeline to follow. During these visits, the dentist or hygienist will remove plaque and tartar buildup from your teeth and gums to help prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Regular dental cleanings are also an important part of a preventive care program, helping to detect any problems early on so they are treated promptly before they become serious.

Is Teeth Cleaning Necessary Every 3 Months?

While it's not necessary for everyone, some individuals should get their teeth cleaned every 3 months. These include those with periodontal (gum) disease, smokers, diabetics, and people who are prone to tooth decay. Additionally, if your dentist finds any signs of gum disease or cavities during a regular checkup, they may recommend that you come back for cleaning more frequently than usual.

How Many Sittings Are Required For Teeth Cleaning?

Usually, you just need one sitting in two parts. The first part involves the scaling and polishing of teeth. This is to remove plaque and tartar buildup as well as smooth out any rough surfaces on the teeth. The second part involves a fluoride treatment, which helps to protect against cavities in-between regular visits to your dentist. After these two parts, your dentist will typically give you a final check-up and may take X-rays if necessary.

Is Yearly Teeth Cleaning Necessary?

Yes, yearly teeth cleaning is necessary for your oral health. It helps to remove plaque and tartar that lead to cavities and gum disease if left untreated. Regular cleanings also help keep your white teeth, breath fresh, and gums healthy. The average is twice a year, but some may have to go to the dentist more or fewer times a year than that, depending on the state of their oral health.

How Long After Teeth Cleaning Can I Drink?

You should wait at least 24 hours to consume any liquids besides water, especially beverages with extreme temperatures, after a dental cleaning. This is because the bacteria and acids in your mouth cause sensitivity to temperatures. Giving your teeth time to heal and adjust before ingesting anything that could harm them is important.

How Long After Teeth Cleaning Can I Eat?

The answer depends on the type of treatment you receive. Generally speaking, most dentists advise that you wait one hour before eating anything after a routine cleaning. This is to give your gums and teeth time to recover from the procedure and heal properly. If you’ve had more intensive treatments such as fillings or crowns placed, then your dentist might recommend waiting longer before eating again - usually up to four hours - for the materials used during the procedure to set properly.

Wrapping Up

Getting regular dental cleanings is important for your overall oral health and hygiene. Cleaning appointments take about an hour, but may vary depending on the complexity of your situation. During cleaning, you should expect your dentist to evaluate your teeth and gums, scale away any plaque or tartar buildup, polish away any surface stains, and provide additional treatments as needed. Your dentist will also likely offer advice on ways to maintain good oral care at home between visits. By taking advantage of professional cleanings twice a year or more often if recommended by your dentist, you help ensure that you maintain healthy teeth and gums for life!