Professional teeth cleaning is a procedure aimed at preventing tooth decay and gum disease. Dentists and dental hygienists perform professional teeth cleaning at the dentist’s office, usually alongside a comprehensive dental exam.

The American Dental Association recommends visiting a dentist “regularly” for a cleaning. For some people, the best frequency will be every 6 months or so. If you are at a higher risk for gum disease, you may need to visit a dentist more frequently.

Let’s take a look at how often you should get your teeth cleaned.

Some dentists recommend that you visit once every 6 months for a cleaning. This allows your dentist to get a look at your teeth and let you know if there’s anything that needs to be addressed, such as a cavity or gingivitis.

There doesn’t appear to be a lot of research comparing people who go to the dentist twice per year with people who get teeth cleanings less frequently.

In recent years, the 6-month standard has been deemed arbitrary by some experts. One 2013 study suggested that people who visit twice per year don’t necessarily improve their dental outcomes in a statistically significant way.

That same study found that dental care visit frequency should be determined in conversation with your dental professional, based on your specific risk factors for gum disease (periodontitis) and tooth loss.

You may be at a higher risk for gum disease if you:

Research has established a relationship between income inequality and oral health. People who don’t have dental insurance or the ability to pay for regular dental visits tend to experience more cavities, more frequent dental injuries, and increased rates of gum disease.

This is a complicated subject and may be due to inequities and barriers to healthcare, but it does imply that going to the dentist regularly affects your dental health as well as your health overall.

There’s no long-term research to address the question of “how much is too much” when it comes to teeth cleaning. It’s possible that having the procedure done too often could make your teeth more sensitive or damage your tooth enamel.

Repeated teeth cleaning can get expensive, too, because you’ll most likely start having to pay completely out of pocket. Even the most comprehensive dental insurance likely won’t cover more than two teeth cleaning appointments per year.

In general, your dentist should be able to advise you if you would benefit from professional teeth cleaning more than twice a year.

The teeth cleaning procedure may vary between practitioners, but these are the basic steps of a teeth cleaning visit. The whole process usually takes less than an hour. If you have sensitive teeth, a light numbing agent can be applied to your teeth and gums before you begin.


During this step, also called scaling, tartar and plaque are removed from your teeth. Your dentist or dental hygienist will clean the most difficult to reach areas of your mouth using special tools to scrape off stubborn plaque. They will also clean the spaces between your teeth with a special flossing technique and tools.

The hygienist may use a tool called a Prophy-Jet, which uses water, abrasive powders, and pressurized air to remove plaque, soft debris, and stains. They’ll rinse out your mouth at the end.


Next, your teeth are polished. Your dental professional uses a rotating head with a dental paste to shine your teeth up to their squeaky clean best.

Fluoride treatment

To prevent cavities, a dentist or dental hygienist may apply a fluoride treatment to your teeth. This fluoride treatment may be a paste, a gel, or a varnish.

At the end of the cleaning, they may speak with you about proper dental hygiene and recommend products for keeping your teeth healthy at home.

Professional teeth whitening is different than teeth cleaning. Getting your teeth cleaned can leave them looking whiter, but it’s not the same as going to the dentist specifically for whitening.

Getting your teeth whitened at the dentist typically involves a hydrogen peroxide rinse. This rinse is meant to break apart stains on your teeth. There are other methods of in-office whitening your dentist may offer.

There is no standard clinical guideline for how often you should get your teeth whitened. It’s not considered a necessary part of oral health. For this reason, teeth whitening is not typically covered by insurance.

You should see your dentist at least once per year for an annual exam. Generally, your teeth cleaning will be included in this visit. It’s not advised that you skip this annual exam.

You can practice good dental hygiene to protect your teeth from cavities and reduce your risk of gum disease. This can mean you don’t have to see the dentist as often simply because you need fewer visits to address dental issues.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about getting your teeth cleaned at the dentist.

How much does teeth cleaning cost?

Prices vary according to your dental professional, as well as the cost of living where you’re seeing the dentist. It’s hard to nail down a range, but a standard cleaning can cost between $75 and $200 without insurance.

If you have dental insurance, one or two annual cleanings may be included per year and not cost you anything. You may have one preventive care visit that requires a copay, typically between $25 and $50.

If you’re concerned about how much a cleaning will cost you, call a dentist before your appointment to verify your fees. You can also ask about payment plans if you aren’t able to pay the whole cost up-front.

How should I take care of my teeth between teeth cleanings?

The best way to keep your teeth healthy between cleanings is to practice good oral hygiene. This includes brushing your teeth for 2 minutes, twice per day, as well as flossing once per day. Get familiar with techniques to brush and floss effectively, as well.

Getting your teeth cleaned professionally is an important tool for your oral health. The frequency of this procedure is best determined on a case-by-case basis with your dentist.

You should ask your dentist how frequently they recommend getting your teeth cleaned based on your current oral health, family history, and risk factors for cavities and gum disease.