A dental cleaning or prophylaxis is the process of removing dental plaque and calculus (hardened plaque) from teeth to help prevent cavities, gingivitis, and periodontal (gum) disease. Brushing and flossing your teeth on a daily basis is essential for good oral hygiene but is not enough to keep hardened plaque and tarter off of your teeth. Your teeth will be polished, scaled, flossed, and have a fluoride treatment placed to help strengthen and protect. If necessary, a deep cleaning or a full mouth debridement will be performed to break up large deposits of plaque and calculus. It is recommended by the American Dental Association to have your teeth cleaned once every six months. Having periodic exams at your cleaning visits will also help to detect dental caries and potential issue before they turn in to big problems (that cost a lot more too!)
It is common for the largest deposits of plaque and calculus to convene near the gumline and into the roots of teeth. These deposits contain bacteria that irritate and infect the surrounding gums. The infection causes swelling in the gums or gingivitis. If left alone, the bacteria on the teeth will start eating away at the bone and roots causing much larger problems down the road. Scaling and root planing is done when gums have started to pull away from the teeth or the roots have hard deposits collecting on them. The process includes scaling (scraping) the teeth and into the roots to remove the plaque and calculus. A local anesthetic is given to help alleviate pain during the procedure. Antibiotics may also be placed in your gums to help with infection.