You’ve been sitting at the dentist’s office for a few minutes now. They call your name, sit you down in the chair, and get you ready for what’s coming. They’re only doing a cleaning, but you’re still a little nervous.

Before you know it, the dental hygienist says you’re free to go. You look at your watch and are surprised the appointment has taken almost an hour and a half. Yesterday your wife was in for the same reason but was out within the hour. What gives?

Why Did My Teeth Cleaning Take So Long

Dental cleanings aren’t the same for everyone who sits in that chair. There’s a variety of factors that determine how long you need to keep your mouth open for.

1. How much plaque, calculus, and stain are on your teeth. Everyone builds up plaque around their teeth when they eat throughout the day. If this plaque isn’t brushed off your teeth each night, it will slowly build up. There are a few things that contribute to this buildup of plaque. The makeup of your saliva, the bacteria living in your mouth, your age, the medications you take (if any), and how effective your oral habits are at home. Your diet has little to do with buildup, but it will affect how much food and beverage stain is sitting on your teeth. When dental hygienists clean your teeth, they remove the buildup around each and every tooth. On the best of days, you’re guaranteed to be there for a while as the hygienist needs to make her way around at least 32 teeth.

2. How persistent and stubborn that buildup is. If you’ve been neglecting your brushing duties lately (or all the time), you’ll be sitting in the dentist chair a while. Individuals build differing quality of calculus depending on the chemical balance of their saliva. Calculus can form along your gum line and the gums in between your teeth. Calculus causes a rough, hard surface to appear on your tooth, which is an ideal surface for additional plaque formation. If calculus isn’t brushed off and is added to instead, it becomes more tenacious. That being said, some calculus is simply just harder to remove than others. If your teeth are surrounded by stubborn calculus that’s hard to remove, the hygienist needs to spend extra time getting that build up off your teeth. Although it may make your cleaning appointment longer, it’s important that hygienists are thorough. If this build up isn’t removed, it can contribute to periodontal disease, tooth decay, and a loss of bone mass that holds in your teeth.

Related: How Laser Assisted Periodontal Treatment Can Help You

Yes, sometimes your appointments may be shorter or longer than your spouse’s. That’s to be expected; not everyone has the same degree of buildup on their teeth. For the benefit of your oral hygiene, your hygienist needs to be thorough in removing all the plaque and calculus that may have formed along your gum lines and on your teeth. If that calculus has hardened over time, the hygienist will require more time to dislodge it. If you want your cleanings to go fast, make sure you practice good oral health care maintenance. The more you floss and brush, the less time you’ll sit in the dentist chair.