Prophylaxis (Teeth Cleaning)

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A dental prophylaxis is a cleaning procedure performed to thoroughly clean the teeth and improve gum inflammation.  As such, prophylaxis is an important dental treatment for halting the progression of periodontal disease and gingivitis.

Periodontal disease and gingivitis occur when bacteria from plaque colonize on the gingival (gum) tissue – either above or below the gum line. These bacteria colonies can cause inflammation and irritation in your gums which lead to gingivitis or even worse periodontitis. Continued bacterial presence begins to systematically destroy gum and bone tissue. This overtime has a "domino effect" causing gum recession, bone loss around teeth, and can even cause tooth mobility. If left untreated this bacteria can enter the bloodstream and cause complications with cardiac, respiratory, and endocrine systems. 

Reasons for prophylaxis/teeth cleaning

Prophylaxis is an excellent procedure to help keep the oral cavity in good health and also halt the progression of gum disease.

Here are some of the benefits of prophylaxis:

  • Tartar removal – Tartar (calculus) and plaque buildup, both above and below the gum line, can cause serious periodontal problems if left untreated.  Even using the best brushing and flossing homecare techniques, it can be impossible to remove debris, bacteria and deposits from gum pockets.  Our experienced hygienists use special dental equipment and instruments to treat problems such as tartar and plaque buildup.

  • Aesthetics – If you are a tea, coffee, or wine lover most likely your smile contains stains that are discolored or make you feel less confident about your smile. A prophylaxis can rid the teeth of those unsightly stains and return your smile to its former glory.

  • Fresher breath – Periodontal disease is often signified by persistent bad breath (halitosis).  Bad breath is generally caused by a combination of chronic bacteria deposits below the gum line, unremoved food debris on the tongue, or periodontal disease.  The removal of plaque, calculus and bacteria noticeably improves breath and alleviates irritation.

  • Identification of health issues – Many health problems first present themselves to the dentist.  Since prophylaxis involves a thorough examination of the entire oral cavity, the dentist is able to screen for oral cancer, evaluate the risk of periodontitis and often spot signs of medical problems like diabetes and kidney problems.  Recommendations can also be provided for altering the home care regimen.

What does prophylaxis treatment involve?

Prophylaxis is usually performed in the course of a regular dental visit.  

Prophylaxis is generally performed in several stages:

  1. Supragingival cleaning – The hygienist will thoroughly clean the area above the gum line with scaling tools to rid them of plaque and calculus.

  2. Subgingival cleaning – This is the most important step for patients with periodontal disease because the hygienist is able to remove calculus from the gum pockets and beneath the gum line.

  3. Root planing - This is the smoothing of the tooth root by the hygienist to eliminate any remaining bacteria.  These bacteria are extremely dangerous to periodontitis sufferers, so eliminating them is one of the top priorities of the dentist.

Prophylaxis is recommended twice annually as a preventative measure, but should be performed every 3-4 months on periodontitis sufferers.  Though gum disease cannot be completely reversed, prophylaxis is one of the tools the dentist can use to effectively halt its destructive progress.

If you have questions or concerns about prophylaxis or periodontal disease, please contact our practice.


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