Home Dental Care Professional teeth cleaning – useful or not?

Professional teeth cleaning – useful or not?

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 135 views

Your own toothbrush does not go everywhere. Stubborn deposits, for example in the spaces between the teeth or gum pockets, can only be removed with a professional tooth cleaning (PZR) in the dental practice. Read here whether and when professional tooth cleaning makes sense, what to expect from this treatment and what you should consider.

Professional tooth cleaning: procedure

Most dental practices offer professional tooth cleaning (PZR). It is carried out either by the dentist himself or by specially trained dental hygienists or prophylaxis assistants.

The process of the PZR is not binding in Germany. However, professional teeth cleaning usually includes the following steps:

If one or more of the following steps are omitted during your professional tooth cleaning, this may well be due to your individual oral situation. When in doubt, ask us. You can check the quality of your professional teeth cleaning with coloring tablets. They are available in pharmacies and indicate deposits by making them visible in colour.

First step: identify needs

First, the expert examines your teeth and gums thoroughly with the naked eye, mirror and probe. The aim is to identify possible problem areas, decayed teeth and bleeding gums. On this basis, a decision is then made as to whether a PZR makes sense for you and, if so, which areas should be cleaned. Ideally, professional teeth cleaning should only include areas that actually have plaque.

Second step: Tips for dental care

During the oral examination, the expert recognizes problem areas and any mistakes made when brushing your teeth. He recommends techniques and instruments that you can use for personal dental care. He may show you on an artificial set of teeth how and with what to brush your teeth properly. You can then practice this yourself.

Third step: cleaning

Now it’s time to get to the bottom of the plaque: the expert removes tartar with a wide variety of instruments such as ultrasonic devices, scalers and curettes, if necessary also under the gum line. Soft deposits are tackled with brushes or powder water jet devices: The latter work with a mixture of compressed air, water and fine powder particles that are sprayed onto the teeth, which cleans them quickly and effectively. It is important to use the device correctly – improper use can easily injure teeth and gums.

Incidentally, the powder water jet devices are not without controversy. A study by the University Dental Clinic in Bern has shown that they attack tooth substance more severely than manual methods of tooth cleaning when used repeatedly.

Fourth step: polishing

After the rough cleaning comes the finishing touches. The specialist applies polishing paste to your teeth with rotating brushes. This contains abrasive particles that remove remaining plaque and fluoride that hardens the enamel.

Fifth step: sealing

Sealing teeth hardens tooth enamel, protecting teeth from the acid produced by caries bacteria. To do this, the specialist applies fluoride-containing gels or varnishes to your teeth with a brush or cotton wool. Some products contain the germicidal chlorhexidine instead of fluoride.

Professional tooth cleaning: duration and frequency

How long does a teeth cleaning take? It depends on how thick the pads are and how many spots need to be worked on. In principle, however, you can assume the following rule of thumb:

  • Tooth cleaning for slightly soiled teeth: around 45 minutes
  • Tooth cleaning for heavier deposits: 60 minutes or more depending on the degree of soiling

How often should you have your teeth cleaned by a professional? Most dentists recommend having a professional teeth cleaning twice a year.

Professional teeth cleaning: costs

The cost of the treatment depends on the complexity of the treatment. As a rule, specialists need between 45 and 60 minutes for professional tooth cleaning. The PZR costs are accordingly between about 70 and 150 euros.

Professional tooth cleaning: Reimbursement by health insurance companies

The PZR is not a service provided by statutory health insurance companies. However, some insurance companies grant subsidies. These are between around 30 and 65 euros once a year. Some health insurers even contribute to the PZR costs twice a year, but then only 25 to 30 euros are covered per appointment. If you take part in a bonus program of your health insurance company, the grants can also be higher. For pregnant women, the amounts of the statutory health insurance are between 80 and 200 euros.

Some health insurance companies also offer a percentage participation of up to 80 percent. You receive the subsidy by first paying the bill from your dentist and then submitting it to your health insurance company within a specified period.

Professional tooth cleaning: Participation in costs for privately insured persons

If you are privately insured or have supplementary dental insurance , the tariff you have chosen is decisive. Some tariffs only include curative treatments. Others also extend to prophylactic measures such as PZR. The treatment costs are then reimbursed in full once a year or twice a year with a maximum of 40 euros.

It is best to compare in advance what costs different dental practices estimate for your PZR. Ask for cost estimates and only then decide on professional teeth cleaning – costs and effort should be comprehensible and balanced.

What does professional teeth cleaning bring?

Brushing your teeth twice a day and regularly tackling the plaque in the spaces between your teeth with dental floss or an interdental brush – isn’t that enough for lasting healthy teeth? Most dentists deny this. Because no matter how hard you try, you won’t reach all the nooks, crannies and niches in your teeth. Stubborn deposits, tartar and discolouration cannot be removed by brushing your teeth yourself.

Only the professional can do this with special instruments developed for professional tooth cleaning. And only when all hard (tartar) and soft (plaque) coverings have been completely removed and the teeth have then been sealed do the oral bacteria responsible for tooth decay and periodontal disease not stand a chance for a long time – this is the argument of the proponents of PZR.

However, the effectiveness of professional tooth cleaning is controversial. While the proponents see the prophylactic effect against caries and periodontitis as proven by various studies, critics deny these studies the probative value. They also emphasize the disadvantages associated with a PZR:

Professional tooth cleaning – disadvantages

  • The tooth substance can be damaged.
  • Gums can be injured during tooth cleaning.
  • The costs of the PZR are usually not covered by the statutory health insurance companies.

Therefore, before a PZR, you should clarify with the dentist whether tooth cleaning makes sense and is necessary. Depending on the condition of your teeth and any tooth or gum problems, the expert will give you an individual recommendation.

It is undisputed that professional tooth cleaning is suitable, for example, for the pre- and post-treatment of periodontitis. Professional tooth cleaning can also help with discolored teeth – the intensive cleaning makes the teeth appear whiter.

On the other hand, if you suffer from tooth decay, professional tooth cleaning is counterproductive, as it can wash the responsible bacteria even deeper into the damaged tooth.

Tell your dentist if you have an older type of pacemaker. Then no ultrasound and powder water jet devices may be used, as they can interfere with the function of the cardiac pacemaker.     

Professional teeth cleaning – what else you should know

Toothache after teeth cleaning?

After professional teeth cleaning, the necks of the teeth can be particularly sensitive temporarily. However, this usually subsides after a few hours. Sometimes the dentist treats the teeth with a special desensitizing agent after cleaning the teeth. Pain in the necks of the teeth can thus be reliably avoided.

Professional tooth cleaning itself is painless – pain is not caused by cleaning with handheld devices, powder water jets or ultrasonic devices.

People with teeth that are excessively sensitive to pain (dentine hypersensitivity) can also have their teeth cleaned professionally. Dentists then apply desensitizing agents to the teeth in advance. In particularly severe cases, a local anesthetic (anaesthetic) is administered, which works while the teeth are being cleaned.

Eating after teeth cleaning?

You should not eat or drink anything for about an hour after your teeth cleaning. In particular, you should avoid foods that stain strongly, such as grape juice, red wine, coffee and tea, as the teeth absorb colorings particularly easily after cleaning. The same applies to smoking.

Professional tooth cleaning for implants?

The surface of dental implants consists of the well-tolerated but very soft metal titanium. In order not to damage the implants, they may only be cleaned with instruments made of plastic or special titanium alloys. Professional tooth cleaning with ultrasonic and powder water jet devices is taboo! These instruments too easily cause cracks in the implant surface.

Professional teeth cleaning even for children?

Children are entitled to a reduced version of the PZR. The health insurance companies cover the costs for a brief professional teeth cleaning twice a year for 6 to 18-year-olds. A specialist checks the oral hygiene , gives tips for the right tooth brushing technique and fluoridates the teeth.

Professional teeth cleaning during pregnancy

The hormones released during pregnancy make the tissue looser in preparation for childbirth and ensure better blood circulation – also in the gums. This is therefore more easily injured and tends to bleed – bacteria that cause periodontitis have an easy time of it.

It is therefore particularly important for pregnant women to thoroughly and regularly care for their teeth, gums and interdental spaces with a brush and dental floss. Professional tooth cleaning supports particularly intensive oral hygiene during pregnancy. Experts therefore recommend professional teeth cleaning at the beginning of pregnancy and in the last trimester . 

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