Short answer: At least 30 minutes and typically 45-60 minutes.
Long answer: During a routine cleaning, the dentist or hygienist needs to review any changes in your health, they need to evaluate the health of your teeth and gums and then counsel you on any improvements that should be focused on at home. Sometimes, the evaluation of your gums requires that they measure the gum pockets to look for signs of inflammation and bone loss. They then need to clean off any accumulations on your teeth, floss them and remove any stains. For most people, this takes a half hour at minimum and more likely longer. Some offices have special assistants that help the hygienist and this expedites the process. During a simple (routine) cleaning, only the surfaces above the gum (supracrestal) are cleaned. That’s why a simple cleaning is usually a comfortable procedure and doesn’t take much time to complete. Some people, in fact, have so little accumulation on their teeth that it is actually possible to do a thorough job in less than 30 minutes. But these are precisely the patients who are good candidates for less frequent cleanings. See, “Do I need a cleaning every six months?”. One other exception is patients with far fewer natural teeth than normal. If someone has half the normal set, then it would clearly take less time to clean them yet a decreased frequency may not be the best option. Also, it’s important to remember that a regular cleaning is very different than a “deep cleaning” and this is a topic that will be covered in an upcoming blog entry.
If you feel your cleaning is too short, inquire as to why that is. Consider asking for a less frequent cleaning if the answer is simply, “you don’t have much to clean.”. A thorough cleaning will remove the vast majority of stains and all hard tartar (calculus) on the surfaces of the teeth. In most people, this process takes more than 30 minutes to complete and usually 45 minutes or more.