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Teeth Cleaning 101

Teeth cleaning or prophylaxis is a preventive treatment for diseases of the gum. The procedure involves the removal of tartar or mineralized plaque that can develop even with diligent brushing and flossing. A prophlylaxis is often done by a professional dental hygienist. A typical appointment involves a dentist doing a complete medical and dental history, an evaluation of any medications taken, and a head/neck and oral cancer screening. Then, periodontal probing is done where measurements of how deep the gum pocket is between the tooth and gum in millimeters and any bleeding is noted. Next, any x-rays needed would be taken to complete the examination. After this, the hygienist will scale the white parts of the teeth with instruments to remove the tartar and plaque. Sometimes a certain machine, a cavitron or peizo unit aids in the removal of large amounts of tartar buildup. This machine can be noisy and is combined with water to keep things cool. The hygienist would then proceed to polish and smooth out these areas with the use of the air driven hand piece and paste. Finally, they would finish up by flossing the teeth. Hygienists might also go over oral hygiene instructions for home care.

In cases which a patient has progressed beyond a preventative dental disease, they would require what is called scaling and root planning, also known as deep cleaning. This procedure involves the removal of dental plaque and calculus and then smoothing or planing of the surfaces of the roots of the teeth removing cementum or dentine that is impregnated with calculus, toxins, and/or microorganisms. This procedure can be done by a dental hygienist, but is also done by dentists. The mouth is broken up into quadrants and usually two quadrants are done per session. A patient may only need two quadrants and sometimes, they only need one. It all depends on how much pocketing the patient has in each quadrant and how much bone loss is present. Sometimes anesthesia, or numbing is needed to complete the procedure. After a healing period, the patient is re-evaluated and is either put on a recall interval or referred to a specialist called a periodontist for further evaluation and additional therapies.