Three things your dentist does differently to you

Ever wondered why your teeth feel so clean after a visit to the dentist? While daily brushing and flossing are an essential part of your oral health routine, it can be challenging to reach all the surfaces of your teeth and know what’s happening beneath your gums. That’s where regular dental check-ups are beneficial as your dentist can examine what is happening beneath your crowns and between your teeth. The best part is, you get to sit back and relax while your dentist cares for your oral health.

Your teeth are complex structures, and while you can only see the part of your teeth above the gums (the crown), what’s happening below the gums and between your teeth is just as important. Without healthy and strong foundations, the risk of needing more extensive and costly treatments increases.


Using dental instruments

Your dentist can detect any early signs of common oral health issues which you often can’t see at home, including gum inflammation, infection, and more serious issues affecting the bone that holds teeth in place. With precision instruments, your dentist can remove any plaque and tartar with their ultrasonic or sonic scalers and hand-held curettes1. Your dentist will also use magnification glasses and an LED light to enhance their vision and ensure a thorough examination of your teeth, gums and tongue2.


So, what are the three things your dentist does differently compared to you?

1. Removal of plaque

Plaque is an invisible, sticky film that forms on the surface of teeth. It’s made up of bacteria and leftover food particles. This bacteria feeds on sugars from food and drinks, producing acids that can damage tooth enamel.

Daily brushing and flossing help to remove plaque, which if left untreated, can lead to tooth decay, gum inflammation (gingivitis), and other health issues. Everyone gets plaque, especially after eating and drinking foods high in carbohydrates, but over time, plaque build-up can harden and turn into a substance called tartar or calculus which cannot be removed with a normal toothbrush.

2. Removal of tartar

Tartar is rough and cement-like, making it easy for more plaque to hide under the gums where your toothbrush and floss can’t reach. This buildup can lead to gum disease and other dental problems1.

Your dentist uses special hand instruments and an ultrasonic cleaner that vibrates at high speeds to loosen tartar from the tooth surface. Scalers use vibrations to loosen larger pieces of tartar and calculus. At the same time, it sprays a mist of water which washes away the debris, preventing it from re-sticking to your teeth. Curettes are the hook-shaped tool you might recognise from your dental visits.

Once the larger pieces of calculus have been removed, your dentist will switch to using hand instruments like this to scrape off smaller build-ups and run across the tooth surface to locate small deposits. Afterwards, the tooth surface can be quite rough, so your dentist may polish your teeth to smooth them out and remove any superficial stains that have built up.

3. Examining your teeth, gums and tongue

Your dentist will also examine each tooth, your gums, and your tongue. Healthy gums should fit snugly around each tooth and if they start to loosen, it can be an early sign of gum disease. Your dentist might use a small ruler to measure the space between your gums and teeth, checking for anything unusual.



What about X-rays?

Your dentist may request digital dental X-rays be taken of your teeth and gums during your check-up for concerns that cannot be seen by only looking inside the mouth. X-rays allow your dentist to see under the surface of the teeth and gums, helping to identify any dental decay, bone loss or fractures. They also help monitor how close the teeth are to the nerves and sinuses and the development of teeth under the gums, allowing your dentist to plan your dental treatments accordingly3.

How do dentists read X-rays?

There are a few different types of dental x-rays and the type of X-ray your dentist requests will depend on what they are looking for. Your dentist will examine your X-rays by:

  • Comparing your new and old X-rays- this allows your dentist to identify any changes in the condition of your teeth or jawbone over time.
  • Checking for any abnormalities- this may include a misaligned tooth or a cyst in the jawbone.
  • Comparing your left and right sides – this will help to highlight any potential issues and may make any problems easier to find.


Is this included in my check-up and clean?

Yes, your dentist will examine your teeth and gums at your regular appointments. Tartar can’t be removed with a toothbrush and requires special dental tools and a procedure called a scale and polish. If you require tartar removal during your regular check-up, your dentist may recommend this to remove buildup. You may also receive a fluoride application to help reduce dental decay and decrease the sensitivity of your teeth.


What if I have dental extras? Is a scale and clean included in my check-up?

Eligible nib patients with dental cover are entitled to receive 100% back on preventative dental check-ups*, which include a scale and clean. Make sure to check your eligibility with your current health fund provider before booking your appointment.

Seeing your dentist for regular cleanings does more than just clean your teeth—it helps you take better care of your oral health. Book an appointment today so you can learn more about how to care well for your teeth.


*Payment by nib of dental benefits is subject to serving relevant waiting periods, annual limits and service limits. 100% Back only for nib customers with policies which provide no gap and have sufficient benefits remaining. Check your cover at or call 13 14 63. The dental check-up includes examination (011, 012), scale and clean (114) or removal of plaque (111), fluoride (121) and bite-wing or periapical x-rays (022, maximum of 2 per year) as deemed necessary and appropriate in the clinical opinion of the dentist (dentures not included). The services provided will be deducted from your annual limits and/or service limits. 100% back dental excludes DentalPass members and is not to be used in conjunction with any other offer or government scheme, nor substitutable or redeemable for cash.