Teeth cleaning (also known as prophylaxis, literally a preventive treatment of a disease) is a procedure for the removal of tartar (mineralized plaque) that may develop even with careful brushing and flossing, especially in areas that are difficult to reach in routine toothbrushing. It is often done by a dental hygienist. Professional cleaning includes tooth scaling and tooth polishing and debridement if too much tartar has accumulated. This involves the use of various instruments or devices to loosen and remove deposits from the teeth.
There are three main types of dental cleanings: prophylaxis cleaning, scaling and root planing, and gross debridement.
While they all accomplish essentially the same thing — cleaner teeth — they are performed differently and for different reasons. In order to fully understand why and when each type of cleaning is performed, the following is everything you need to know.
A prophylaxis cleaning, otherwise known as a routine cleaning, is performed on healthy patients who just need routine maintenance in order to ensure oral health.
In many instances, a prophylaxis cleaning is performed by a dental hygienist, and it entails removing all the plaque from teeth, removing deeper, hardened plaque (calculus) and any stains that exist on the surface of the teeth. While prophylaxis may not be administered on severely damaged teeth, it is a great dental cleaning procedure to maintain already-healthy teeth, along with daily oral hygiene practices.
Most dentists recommend a prophylaxis cleaning once every six months to ensure plaque has not begun to build up on the surface of the teeth and to clean off hardened plaque if it already has developed.
Scaling and root planing, which is also referred to as a deep cleaning, is typically only administered to patients at high risk of developing gum disease or patients who have already developed gum disease.
If an excess of plaque begins to build up over time without being properly cleaned off, it can harden and turn into tartar or calculus and has the potential of causing gum disease and other serious oral health complications. When this occurs, a scaling and root planing is needed to ensure that the hardened plaque is cleaned off.
Scaling and root planing is most often performed on patients who have signs of gum disease, such as bleeding gums, swollen gums or loose teeth.
A gross debridement is a dental cleaning procedure that is often administered by a dentist in order to determine if there are any teeth issues that were not initially noticed before the dental cleaning.
A gross debridement is most often performed on patients who have not visited the dentist in more than a year or who have developed a build up of hardened plaque on the surface of the teeth.
Essentially, a gross debridement is performed by thoroughly working to remove any and all plaque buildup on the teeth and gums. While a simple gross debridement does not take long, debridements that are performed on damaged teeth with a large amount of plaque buildup may take a while to complete.