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Dental Cleaning (Prophylaxis)


When was the last time you had a dental cleaning? If you think it doesn't matter, you need to read on to learn about the importance of dental prophylaxis. This simple procedure is a major part of an oral health care regimen needed to prevent cavities, gum disease and tooth loss brought on by dental disease. Prophylaxis can prevent the need for a costly dental treatment, such as a tooth filling or gum disease treatment. And you only need to do it twice a year.

The medical term for a professional dental cleaning, prophylaxis is purely a preventive measure. Part of your dental checkup, prophylaxis is used to remove dental plaque and other irritants from the oral cavity. 

As these deposits build on your teeth, they form dental tartar, which harbors harmful bacteria that contribute to most dental problems. Unfortunately, some of these deposits can't be removed with regular brushing and flossing. Prophylaxis is one way to ensure a clean bill of oral health -- at least for the next six months! 


Freshen Your Mouth and So Much More!

Dental prophylaxis is more than just a tooth cleaning. During the exam, several measures are used to monitor and improve the health of your teeth. First, your dental hygienist will take X-rays to look for any signs of tooth decay.  Next comes the removal of deposits from your teeth with an ultrasonic dental cleaning or scaling and root planing. The hygienist will polish your teeth to give you a gleaming smile.  Dr. Warren or Dr. Hardee will review your X-rays and check for any dental problems with a thorough oral exam.  They will discuss with you any treatment plans they feel are necessary.


Dental prophylaxis is essential not only for maintaining your teeth, but is also used to treat the early stages of gum disease.  use special We will use tools to remove dental tartar, which you can't do on your own. Without regular dental visits, harmful bacteria cause inflamation and infection and dental tartar can build up and start to form under the gum line. This eventually can lead to periodontal disease, which left untreated, may cause tooth loss. Advanced stages of gum disease may allow bacteria from the mouth to enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body. Studies have shown that gum disease has actually been linked to heart disease and stroke!

Here are other reasons to see your dentist for prophylaxis on a regular basis:

Dental Education -- Your hygienist can look for teeth that have a larger buildup of dental tartar and show you areas that need improvement in your oral hygiene regimen.

Cosmetic Purposes -- Prophylaxis helps remove some stains from your teeth. 

Health Reasons -- During the exam,  Dr. Warren and Dr. Hardee will screen for oral cancer. Also, dental health has been linked to overall health. Not only can oral problems affect your health, but symptoms of some physical ailments are found in the mouth. Many dentists are trained to look for signs of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, eating disorders like bulimia nervosa, HIV or AIDS, and many other conditions.

1. For patients with heart conditions, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to be taken prior to the dental cleaning. Tell your dentist about your medical history, allergies and prescription medications you are taking prior to your first appointment. Be sure to update your medical records as needed.

2. Most dental plans cover two dental cleanings a year, but be sure to check your dental insurance coverage prior to your appointment. If you're hesitating to make an appointment because you're paying out-of-pocket, consider this: Prophylaxis is a preventive measure that can help prevent tooth decay and other dental problems. Without it, many dental conditions will go unnoticed and grow out of control. A dental exam twice a year can reduce the need for major dental treatments at a much greater expense down the line.

Dental prophylaxis is probably one of the greatest investments your can make in your dental and overall health.

Periodontal Maintenance


Periodontal Maintenance is a cleaning procedure performed to thoroughly clean the teeth for patients who have periodontal disease.  Maintenance is an important dental treatment for halting and preventing the progression of this dental infection.


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 cause serious inflammation and irritation which in turn produce a chronic inflammatory response in the body.  As a result, the body begins to systematically destroy gum and bone tissue, making the teeth shift, become unstable, or completely fall out. 


The pockets between the gums and teeth become deeper and house more bacteria which may travel via the bloodstream and infect other parts of the body.


Reasons for Periodontal Maintenance 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 periodontal maintenance:


1)  Tartar removal – Tartar (calculus) and plaque buildup both above and below the gum line and 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.  The experienced eye of your hygienist, using specialized dental equipment is needed in order to spot and treat problems such as tartar and plaque buildup.


2)  Aesthetics – It’s hard to feel confident about a smile marred by yellowing, stained teeth.  Maintenance can rid the teeth of unsightly stains and return the smile to its former beauty.


3)  Fresher breath – Periodontal disease is often signified by persistent bad breath (halitosis).  Bad breath is generally caused by a combination of rotting food particles below the gum line, possible gangrene stemming from gum infection, and periodontal problems.  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.


Periodontal Maintenance 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 and bacteria 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, so eliminating them is one of the top priorities of the treatment.

  4. Medication - Following scaling and root planing, an antibiotic or antimicrobial cream may be placed in the gum pockets.  These antibiotic treatments may promote fast and healthy healing in the pockets and help ease discomfort.

  5. X-ray and examination – Routine X-rays can be extremely revealing when it comes to periodontal disease.  X-rays show the extent of bone and gum recession, and also aid the dentist in identifying areas which may need future attention.


Periodontal maintenance is recommended every three to four months.  Research indicates bacterial formation on teeth and gum occurs almost immediately after the cleaning, and  bone loss reocurring after 90 days. 


Frequent removal of the bacteria from under the gumline can control the inflammation and can often prevent the further breakdown of the bone and gum supporting your teeth.


Though gum disease cannot be completely reversed, periodontal maintenance 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 ask one of our staff! 


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