Did you know that the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends having your teeth professionally cleaned at least twice a year? This is because it has been proven that preventative dental care, such as dental cleanings, can drastically reduce your risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease. However, since everyone is different, there are different types of dental cleanings that your dentist may decide to use. In order to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, your dentist may opt to do one of the four following cleanings:
While the word “prophylaxis” may sound intimidating, this word simply means preventative. In most cases, your dentist will elect to do a prophylaxis cleaning in order to maintain your oral health and prevent common dental issues. During a prophylaxis cleaning, a dental hygienist will use a special tool called a dental scaler to gently remove plaque and tartar from the surface of your teeth. Dental scalers can either be small, metal tools or an electric tool that uses thin water pulses. After the entire front and back surface of your teeth have been cleaned using a dental scaler, then your teeth will be brushed with a gritty toothpaste, flossed, and rinsed to remove any excess debris. The final step of a prophylaxis cleaning is to apply a fluoride varnish to the surface of your teeth in order to prevent future plaque accumulation and strengthen your enamel.
Scaling and Root Planing
This type of cleaning, also known as a deep cleaning, is generally reserved for those who may show signs of early gum disease and gum recession. Like their name suggests, deep cleanings are made up of two parts: scaling and root planing. The scaling portion is similar to what happens during a prophylaxis cleaning, where plaque and tartar are removed from the surface of the teeth. The difference is that a deep cleaning also removes plaque and tartar from parts of the exposed tooth roots as well. Next is the planing portion of the cleaning, where the root surface is smoothed out to encourage the gums to reattach themselves to the root.
Periodontal maintenance cleanings are performed on patients who have an advanced form of gum disease known as periodontitis. This type of cleaning is basically a deep cleaning, however it is often performed more often than every six months. This is because the goal of periodontal maintenance is to prevent the progression of the disease since periodontitis cannot be cured. Depending on how advanced the disease is, cleanings may be scheduled every 3 or 4 months.
Debridement cleanings are heavy duty tooth cleanings that are used to remove years of plaque and tartar. They are not common and are reserved for individuals who have either never had dental care or who have been unable to practice regular daily dental hygiene for years. During a debridement cleaning, a motorized scaler is used to gradually chip away at hardened tartar deposits. Once the hardened tartar has been removed, then a prophylaxis cleaning will be performed. In most cases, debridement cleanings need to be performed one quadrant at a time since they usually require dental anesthetics and possible sedation.