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Teeth Cleaning & Teeth Whitening, What’s the Difference Anyway?

Teeth cleaning and teeth whitening are two types of dental procedures that patients often get confused.

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.


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 dental clinic, prophylaxis starts with your hygienist 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 hygienist’s specialized tools. Tartar often forms along the gumline and along the sides of teeth where they meet. When your hygienist 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. The Bright Now hygienists will complete the cleaning procedure by flossing between your teeth to remove any lingering build-up. 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 anaesthesia or numbing agents are required. You can expect your prophylaxis treatment to take about 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the amount of tartar accumulation you have and amount of time between cleaning appointments.


  1. Root Scaling and Planning

Root scaling and planning 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 your local dentist or hygienist will use the scalers to clean below the gumline. Local anaesthetic 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 dental hygienist will focus on one segment of your mouth at each appointment. Gums are likely to be sore and sensitive once the anaesthesia 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:

  • Your gums are red, swollen, and sore.
  • Your gums bleed whenever you brush or floss.
  • Your teeth have begun to feel loose in your jaw.
  • You can see pockets forming between your teeth and gums.
  • You have chronic bad breath that does not go away after brushing, flossing, or using mouthwash.

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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 your Bright Now dentist 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 build-up.
  • Prevention and relief from gum disease.
  • Relief from bad breath.
  • Detection of more serious dental issues.

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


Teeth Whitening

Teeth whitening is actually a group of procedures that can be conducted with the goal of yielding whiter, brighter teeth. The expert Bright Now dentists 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. Stained teeth can be completely healthy, as long as they are kept free from plaque and tartar. If you are searching for a “dentist near me” and attending regular cleaning appointments, you may not need a teeth whitening procedure to improve the health of your teeth.

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.

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 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, friendly dentists first evaluate the condition of your teeth to make sure it’s safe to proceed. 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 your local pharmacy. These brands typically use hydrogen peroxide as the active ingredient, and they contain a lower concentration of peroxide than in-office products that your dentist will use.

This helps ensure our highest priority – your safety! 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 Bright Now 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 the doctor. 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. There are many different brand name whitening treatments. Each contains a different concentration of bleaching agent, and some contain extra ingredients such as fluoride to strengthen the tooth enamel or potassium nitrate to reduce tooth sensitivity. During your appointment, your Bright Now dentist will recommend the best teeth whitening procedure based on your needs. Your tooth whitening procedure will typically take one to two hours, depending on the exact process your dentist recommends.


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.


Final Takeaway : Cleaning and Whitening

The moral of the story is this — teeth cleaning is essential for dental health, and teeth whitening is an elective cosmetic process that can improve the appearance of your smile. If you are unhappy with the colour of your teeth and would like to schedule a whitening appointment.

If you need a recommendation for teeth cleaning and whitening in Bali, come and vist us at Hydromedical Bali. We offer same day cleaning appointments and have made it easy to schedule your dentist. Our expert Hydromedical staff is looking forward to hearing your concerns and providing the very best treatment!