Most people have heard about how important it is to brush your teeth twice a day and floss once a day. However, do you know how important it is to have your teeth regularly cleaned? The American Dental Association notes that regular teeth cleanings should be performed once every six months to effectively prevent dental problems like tooth decay and gum disease.
During these cleanings, plaque and tartar are removed from the outer surface of your teeth. Although regular brushing and flossing help to keep your teeth clean, professional dental cleanings allow a dental hygienist to remove plaque and tartar from the areas you may have missed. In fact, areas that you frequently miss often have tartar deposits, which is dental plaque that has hardened.
When you visit your dentist’s office for a cleaning, there are different types of cleanings that may be performed depending on your oral health. These can include:
A prophylaxis cleaning is a fancy way of saying “preventative” cleaning. This type of cleaning is by far the most common and it is very likely that this is the type of cleaning you can expect when visiting your dentist’s office. During a prophylaxis cleaning, a dental tool called a scaler is used to remove plaque and tartar from the entire front and back surface of your teeth. Scalers can be a metal tool that gently scrapes the surface of your teeth, or it can be a steady stream of water. Once the scaler has been used on all your teeth, they will then be brushed with a gritty toothpaste, flossed, and rinsed. Finally, a fluoride polish will be applied to the surface of the teeth to discourage future plaque buildup and strengthen the enamel.
Scaling and Root Planing
This type of cleaning is also known as a deep cleaning and is performed when excess plaque has accumulated on the tooth roots and causes gum recession. Gum recession occurs when the bacteria in plaque cause the gums to become inflamed and pull away from the teeth. This is a common symptom of gum disease. During the first part of the cleaning, the visible portion of the teeth are scaled like a prophylaxis cleaning. Unlike a prophylaxis cleaning, however, the tooth roots are also scaled. Then the second part of the cleaning consists of smoothing the root surface. This is known as planing and it is used to encourage the gums to reattach to the roots.
Periodontal maintenance cleanings are used to manage the symptoms associated with gum disease. This type of cleaning is usually performed at more frequent intervals than prophylaxis cleanings because its main goal is to slow the progression of gum disease by regularly removing the bacteria responsible. Periodontal maintenance cleanings generally use the scaling and root planing technique to clean the teeth.
This type of cleaning is uncommon and is rarely performed. Cases requiring dental debridement are generally those where poor oral hygiene or a lack of past cleanings has resulted in an excessive accumulation of tartar along the gum line and between the teeth. With this type of cleaning, a special vibrating electric tool is used to loosen and remove the excess tartar. Once the tartar has been removed, then a prophylaxis cleaning can be performed. Gross debridement cleanings may require the use of dental anesthetics and may be completed one quadrant at a time.
No matter what type of dental cleaning you have, the important thing is to have your teeth cleaned. Your dentist will recommend the right dental cleaning for you and your oral health, as well as how often that cleaning should be performed. In most cases, you can simply expect a prophylaxis cleaning every six months to keep your smile in great shape.
Dr. Piazza has been a lifelong resident of Naperville. He is a graduate of Naperville North High School, received his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry at North Central College and earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree at the University of Illinois College of Dentistry in 1988. After graduation, he opened his current dental practice in Naperville.