Brushing and flossing are essential parts of the regular daily oral health care routine. So is visiting your dentist for a checkup. Together, these habits will help you have a healthy mouth and body and a confident smile.
Skipping the dentist visits means you won’t get your teeth cleaned at the dentist with their specific skills and professional dental cleaning instruments. So, what happens during a dental cleaning? Read on and learn what it means to get your teeth cleaned at the dentist.
Prevention, Prophylaxis, or the “Prophy” Cleaning
As early as 1845, The American Journal of Dental Science recommended “cleaning the teeth with floss silk two or three times per day.” This is thought of as the earliest reference in American history to preventive or “prophylaxis” dental care.
This type of dental cleaning is done on healthy mouths. A prophylaxis cleaning – or “prophy,” (pronounced “pro-fee” as the insiders say) starts with a visual examination using a dental mirror to check for areas of concern.
A “periodontal scaler” is the special instrument used to remove small amounts of plaque, tartar and stains from the teeth and just below the gumline.
A healthy gumline means that the gum “pocket” that the tooth sits in is snug and between 1-3mm. The dentist or hygienist carefully measures different parts around each tooth and its gum pocket with an instrument called a probe.
If the dental professional finds deep gum pockets, more plaque, and more tartar than is considered normal during the exam, a deeper cleaning is done. This deeper periodontal cleaning is called “scaling and root planing”.
Deep Cleaning, or Scaling and Root Planing
If your dentist recommends scaling and root planing to treat the deep gum pockets and plaque and tartar buildup, it means you have some form of periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is an infection that causes inflammation of the gums and bone that support your teeth. Your gums get red, swollen, and bleed. When periodontal disease goes untreated, the bone supporting the teeth deteriorates, causing them to loosen and fall out.
The instruments used for scaling and root planing are similar to the periodontal scalers used in a “prophy” cleaning, but are specially sized to reach inside the deeper gum pocket. A scaling and root planing will take more time for the fine detailed cleaning.
After you visit the dentist for a cleaning, give yourself a pat on the back. Preventive care keeps your smile healthy. It also helps further, costlier damage before it begins.
If you have more questions about what goes on during your dental checkup, reach out to your dental office for a pre-appointment discussion. You can also check out how else dental cleanings make for better oral health:
- 3 Improvements After 1 Dental Cleaning
- 3 Health Conditions that Benefit from Extra Dental Cleanings
- Love Your Smile: Practice Preventive Care
Note: Procedure descriptions cover what is typically involved in a procedure; actual method may vary by dental office.