Dental Cleanings During Orthodontics

You’ve started your braces or clear aligner journey and go to orthodontic appointments regularly. You may be thinking – why do I still need dental cleanings during orthodontic treatment? Maybe your dentist told you that you need to go even more often!  To understand why, it is important to understand how plaque and tartar form & how it impacts your health.

Our office is an orthodontic specialist office (Braces, Invisalign, Clear Aligners ONLY). We do NOT provide dental cleanings, fillings, crowns, extractions or implants.

How Plaque & Tartar Form


Plaque is the sticky white film that coats teeth & even the tongue. You can feel it on your teeth with your tongue.  It feels fuzzy and rough, and it disappears when you brush your teeth or scratch it off with your nail. Plaque forms when the bacteria in your mouth eat sugars & starch.  With our modern starchy diet, it is impossible to avoid. 

Tartar, or “Calculus”

When plaque is left in the same place for 48 hours, it absorbs minerals from your saliva, food, and water.  This hardens the plaque into tartar.  Tartar is firmly attached to your teeth. Unlike plaque, tartar is impossible to brush off.  Instead, it needs to be scraped off with a sharp instrument.  This is what your hygienist is doing at your dental cleanings during orthodontic treatment. 

The surface of tartar is very rough.  You may even be able to feel it with your tongue, or even when you are flossing between your teeth.  The rough surface of tartar makes it easier for more plaque to attach to the surface, which then hardens to form more tartar.  It is a viscous cycle that does not stop until the tartar is removed.

Why is Plaque & Tartar Bad?

white spots braces dental cleanings orthodontic vacaville ca
These are permanent tooth scars, or “white spots.” They are the start of cavities and form from plaque. The gums are inflamed, which is “gingivitis.”

If not removed, plaque will create acids that cause cavities (causing white spot lesions) & form tartar. Your mouth, gums, and bone do not like these “foreign bodies” present for too long.  Over time, persistent plaque & tartar will cause gum inflammation, or gingivitis.  Prolonged gingivitis will cause your gums to recede (making your teeth more sensitive).  Eventually, the bone supporting your teeth will recede too.  This is called periodontitis.  Periodontitis loosens your teeth, which increases the chance of teeth falling out.  It is also correlated with all kinds of health issues, such as increased risk of heart disease.  This is why it is important to brush & floss daily – remove the plaque before it turns into tartar!

OK, I get it. Tartar is bad. I brush & floss regularly. Why do I still need to go to the dentist?

No matter how well you take care of your mouth, there will still be areas of teeth where you cannot remove all the plaque with a toothbrush or floss.  Your hygienist will be able to reach & clean those areas before there is too much buildup. The dentist will also be able to catch cavities before they cause sensitivity or pain.  


Orthodontics & Dental Visits, Cleanings, Exams

If you have braces, it is even more difficult to keep your teeth clean.  Depending on how well you are able to clean your teeth, the dentist may prescribe even more frequent dental cleanings.  This may be every 4, or even every 3 months.

Some dentists may prefer your orthodontic wires to be removed before a cleaning so they can do a better job.  At our office, we provide this service free of charge.  Let us know when your next dental appointment is, and we will remove the wire before your appointment.  You will return later that day to have the wire replaced.  


Have any more questions about your dental visits & starting orthodontic treatment? Call (707) 474-4707 or message us to schedule a complimentary consultation with our ABO-Certified Orthodontist!  Check out our blog for more great info!