Are the terms 'cleaning' and 'check-up' different when visiting a dentist?

Doctor's Answers (1)

Dr Jaclyn Toh

"Dentist with an interest in comprehensive dentistry."

The word "cleaning" means a thorough scaling (removal of hardened tartar deposits on the tooth surface with either ultrasonic, hand instruments or both) and polishing (stain removal, smoothening of rough filling edges, polishing of old fillings/crowns etc).

A "check-up" usually means a visual and radiographic (xrays) examination to

1. Confirm the presence of dental health

2. Diagnose the presence of *subclinical* *(before symptoms are present)* dental disease such as tooth decay, gum disease

3. Determine the extent/severity of current dental disease

4. Prognosticate current active dental disease *(how likely it is for disease to progress)*

5. Perform risk assessment The results of the check-up and treatment options (if required) will be discussed with you.

Treatment (including scaling and polishing) is not always included as part of a check-up visit, although this varies between different practices.

If you are a patient of note, then the examination and consultation may not take a significant amount of time.

If you are new to the practice, it may be better to schedule the cleaning appointment separately to ensure that you have booked enough time for a thorough consultation rather than trying to squeeze everything into the same appointment and not having enough time to complete everything properly.

I find that most patient dissatisfaction stems from missed communication where there are assumptions that have not been cleared up prior to treatment. The value of an unhurried consultation in preventing this cannot be underestimated.

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