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What is a Regular Teeth Cleaning (Dental Prophylaxis)?


what is a regular teeth cleaning, what is a dental prophylaxis, do i need a teeth cleaning?

When people think of going to the dentist to get a "Regular cleaning" they are often referring to what we dental professionals call a prophylaxis or prophy for short. However, scraping tartar, flossing and polishing your teeth with your favorite flavor polishing paste is not the only thing that encompasses a dental prophylaxis. There are several other important things that happen during the appointment.


But before we begin talking about other important things that occur during a prophylaxis let's talk about...


What is a "Regular teeth cleaning"?

A regular cleaning is when your dentist or dental hygienist use their scalers, curettes and/or ultrasonic instruments to remove calculus (tartar), plaque (mainly bacteria) and stains on your teeth above the gum line to leave them nice and shinny. Some dentists and dental hygienists will clean slightly underneath the gum line to make sure everything above the CEJ (where the root meets the coronal part of the tooth) is clean. This can sometimes cause some discomfort if the patient's gum tissue is inflamed, but this is useful as it may help remove and/or disturb the bacterial colonies and improve tissue health.


You should also know that a "regular cleaning" is a preventative measure that helps promote oral health and reduce the chances of getting periodontitis (a form of gum disease). If a patient already has periodontitis, the dentist will most likely recommend doing a "deep cleaning" also known as Scaling and Root Planning (SRP for short) to begin proper treatment for the patient. Checkout our blog post on periodontitis to find out more information on this type of gum disease.

What else happens during a Dental Prophylaxis appointment?

The first important thing during the appointment is updating the patient's health history form. This can sometimes be annoying for the patient, but is necessary and important because there are certain health conditions that may prevent the patient from being seen or may require the patient to premedicate before the dental cleaning.


Having radiographs taken is something you probably already expect to have done during the appointment. These are important because they help your dentist check for signs of any potential tooth decay, bone loss and other issues that may not otherwise be so evident.

Cavities in between your teeth sometimes can't be seen during a visual exam and radiographs are excellent at finding these.


Periodontal probing is another important thing that may happen during the appointment. These are typically done once a year and they are usually done when the patient doesn't need radiographs during that appointment.

Periodontal probing is when your dentist or dental hygienist measures the depth of your gums with a "little ruler" that we call a probe. If you ever hear your dental hygienist shout out numbers like [hopefully] "three, two, three" while they are poking your gums, then they are most likely assessing the health of your gums by checking for deep pockets and boneloss. Please refer to our periodontal probing blog post for more information on this topic.


Last but not least, oral hygiene instructions are typically given or reinforced at the end of the appointment once your dental hygienist has had the chance to clean your teeth and find out exactly what areas you need improvement on. They may then recommend certain oral aids and provide oral hygiene instructions for your specific needs.


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