Dental cleanings are one of the most important parts of preventative dental care. In fact, what many people don’t realize is that the majority of dental procedures are preventative cleanings. The American Dental Association recommends having your teeth professionally cleaned by a dentist at least once every six months, along with a dental exam to evaluate your oral health.
Staying caught up on your dental cleanings is important because it helps to decrease your risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease. During a teeth cleaning, excess plaque and tartar are removed from the surface of your teeth. The excess bacteria that resides in these buildups are also removed.
Depending on your oral health, there are different types of dental cleanings that your general dentist may recommend. These include:
Although the name may sound complicated, prophylaxis roughly translates to “preventative”. Therefore, this type of dental cleaning is used to prevent dental disease. Because of this, it is the most commonly performed cleaning and most people who visit their dentist can expect to have a prophylaxis cleaning. The first step to this type of cleaning is to have plaque and tartar accumulations removed using a dental scaler. There are two different types of dental scalers that may be used. One is metal and works by scraping and the other is a solid water stream that works like a low power pressure washer. Once the scaler has removed the larger deposits of plaque and tartar, your teeth will be brushed with a gritty toothpaste, flossed, and rinsed to eliminate any remaining debris. Finally, a fluoride treatment will be applied to your teeth. Fluoride is used to strengthen the enamel, as well as to prevent plaque accumulation in the future.
Scaling and Root Planing
Scaling and root planing cleanings are sometimes referred to as deep cleanings. This type of cleaning is similar to a prophylaxis cleaning, however it also cleans the tooth roots in cases where the gums have receded. After plaque is removed from the tooth roots (scaling), then the roots are smoothed out (planing) to encourage the gums to reattach themselves to the roots.
Periodontal maintenance cleanings are basically scaling and root planing cleanings that are performed on a regular basis as a treatment for active gum disease. Depending on the severity of the gum disease, periodontal maintenance cleanings may need to be performed at a higher frequency than every six months.
Dental Debridement Cleanings
Dental debridement is a term used to describe the removal of foreign matter from the teeth, specifically plaque and tartar. Cases requiring dental debridement usually have an excessive amount of tartar that has embedded itself in the gums and in between the teeth. Since a regular dental scaler is not effective with large amounts of tartar, a special electric tool is used to loosen and remove tartar accumulation. Then a prophylaxis cleaning can be performed to remove any remaining plaque. Dental debridement cleanings are rarely performed, however when they are performed they are usually completed in quadrants with the use of dental anesthetics.
As you can see, there are various types of dental cleanings that your dentist can recommend for your oral health. In most cases, a simple prophylaxis cleaning every six months will usually suffice. However, in cases where you are affected by gum disease or excessive tartar accumulations, other types of dental cleanings may be recommended.
Dr. Martin is a highly skilled dentist of 16 years, and a graduate of Baylor College of Dentistry. During this time, he has placed over 500 implants and maintains his skills by taking more CE courses than required by the State Board each year.