Prophylaxis (Teeth Cleaning)

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Prophylaxis (Teeth Cleaning) 

A dental prophylaxis is a cleaning procedure performed to thoroughly clean the teeth.  Prophylaxis is an important dental treatment for halting the progression of periodontal disease and gingivitis.

Periodontal disease and gingivitis occur when bacteria from plaque gather 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 prophylaxis/teeth cleaning

Prophylaxis 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 prophylaxis:

  • Tartar removal – Tartar (calculus) and plaque buildup, both above and below the gum line, can cause serious periodontal problems if left untreated.  Even using the best brushing and flossing techniques, it can be impossible to remove all debris, bacteria, and deposits from gum pockets.  The experienced eye of a dentist using specialized dental equipment is needed in order to spot and treat problems such as tartar and plaque buildup.

  • Aesthetics – It’s hard to feel confident about a smile marred by yellowing, stained teeth.  Prophylaxis can rid the teeth of unsightly stains and help improve your smile.

  • 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 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, Dr. Day 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.

What does prophylaxis treatment involve?

Prophylaxis can either be performed in the course of a regular dental visit or, if necessary, under general anesthetic.

Prophylaxis is generally performed in several stages:

  1. Supragingival cleaning – The area above the gum line is thoroughly cleaned 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 calculus is removed from the gum pockets and beneath the gum line.

  3. Root planing - This is the smoothing of the tooth root to eliminate any remaining bacteria.  These bacteria are extremely dangerous to periodontitis sufferers, so eliminating them is a top priority.

  4. Medication - Following scaling and root planing, an antibiotic or antimicrobial cream is often placed in the gum pockets.  These creams 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 Dr. Day in identifying areas which may need future attention.

Prophylaxis is recommended at least twice annually as a preventative measure, but should be performed every 3-4 months on periodontitis sufferers.  Though gum disease cannot be completely reversed, prophylaxis is one of the tools that can be used to effectively halt its destructive progress.

If you have questions or concerns about prophylaxis or periodontal disease, please contact our office at 517-353-8500.

Day Family Dental

Dr. Nathan Day, DMD • Dentist • Lansing, MI

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