If you practice good dental hygiene at home by brushing and flossing your teeth every day, you may be tempted to neglect seeing your dentist for a professional cleaning and checkup. But even with these healthy habits, it is very important that you visit your dentist every six months. The kinds of tools and procedures dental professionals will use during a cleaning will help remove plaque and tartar from teeth that a toothbrush and floss cannot always fully remove. In addition, your dentist will be able to identify any potential problems in your mouth before they become serious.
You may be surprised to learn that there are several different types of professional cleanings. Your dentist decides what kind of cleaning you need by doing what is called periodontal charting, which is essentially examining the gums and checking the depth of the gum pocket around each tooth. During this exam your dentist will check for bleeding and for calculus below the gumline. Based on what your dentist finds during the periodontal charting, she will decide what cleaning works best for you. Here are the three main types of professional dental cleanings.
This is what most people refer to as a “normal cleaning.” This type of cleaning will be done on anyone who has had no bone loss and no calculus under the gums. A patient who qualifies for this type of cleaning may only have mild gingivitis and plaque buildup.
A prophylaxis cleaning will usually start with an X-ray of your teeth. X-rays help identify any problems in the mouth that may not be visible with the naked eye. Next, the dental hygienist will examine your gum tissue by performing what is called a periodontal probing. Lastly, the hygienist will clean and polish your teeth using special instruments that help remove plaque and tartar from the teeth and gumline. If you receive a prophylaxis cleaning, you will be told to come back again in six months for another routine cleaning and checkup.
2. Scaling and root planing (SRP/deep cleaning).
If you have gingivitis with bone loss, also called periodontitis, or if you have calculus below the gums, you may be told you need a special kind of cleaning called scaling and root planing. Depending on how many teeth need the procedure, this could be completed in one visit, or it may take two visits to complete.
Because the SRP procedure can cause some discomfort, a local anesthesia will be used to numb the area first. Then your hygienist will remove plaque and tartar from the surface of the teeth and gumline using a special instrument called a dental scaler. Finally, the hygienist will smooth out rough areas, which more easily house bacteria and plaque, performing a procedure called root planing.
If you receive this type of deep cleaning, you will need to come back in seven weeks for a follow up appointment to get any small things left behind and to give your teeth one final polish. Your dentist will also check to see how homecare is going and to ensure your mouth is responding well to the procedure.
3. Periodontal Maintenance Cleanings.
This type of cleaning is similar to a routine prophylaxis cleaning; it involves the dental hygienist doing X-rays, periodontal probing, and a special cleaning that removes plaque and tartar and polishes the teeth. The difference in this kind of cleaning is that while a prophylaxis cleaning is preventative, a periodontal maintenance cleaning targets trouble areas. During this cleaning your hygienist will also clean under the gums to remove any calculus that has built up. Typically, you will receive this type of cleaning every three or four months, depending on the need.
Brushing and flossing are great, but nothing can compare with a professional dental cleaning. Visiting your dentist will not only give your mouth the deep clean it needs, it will also help prevent future health problems. Whether you just need a routine cleaning or you’re having some trouble that requires special attention, we would love to help you at Cornerstone Family Dentistry, so make an appointment with us today!