It has been the general consensus for decades now that individuals should come in for a checkup every six months. That will vary though depending upon the health of your mouth. Some individuals with excellent brushing and flossing habits may not need to come in as often, and others may need to come in more frequently.
Thanks to dental x-ray innovation we can see the health of your teeth and gums internally. These x-rays allow us to see the inside of your mouth which helps us evaluate precisely what type of dental care you require. That being said, children often need more frequent x-rays as their teeth are smaller and it is easier to get cavities between their little teeth, but it is beneficial for all ages.
This is typically done by a dental hygienist prior to seeing the dentist and is the process of scaling, debriding and polishing the teeth. Several different instruments are used during a professional cleaning to loosen and remove plaque build-up and allow the hygienist to reach and clean areas you are unable to do at home. It is not a painful process at all and will leave your mouth feeling fantastic.