When it comes to professional teeth cleanings, they are not all alike. Many people don’t understand this and assume that all teeth cleanings are “regular” teeth cleanings. Finding out you need something other than the “regular” one may be upsetting or confusing.
We hope that by explaining the purpose of all professional teeth cleanings and the differences among them, you’ll be able to ask the right questions and make the right decisions a bout your own dental care.
What is the Purpose of Professional Teeth Cleanings?
The purpose of any type of teeth cleaning is to remove disease-causing buildup from the surfaces of the teeth, allowing the gums to achieve a state of health and maintaining adequate support for the teeth. The buildup (both soft plaque and hard tartar) that collects on teeth between cleanings contains bacteria. These bacteria produce toxins, which cause an inflammatory response in the gums. As inflammation increases, destruction of the gums and underlying bone surrounding a tooth ensues.
By removing all of the buildup on the teeth, a professional teeth cleaning stops the inflammatory process and protects the health of the teeth, gums, and jawbone.
What is a “Regular” Teeth Cleaning?
What most patients refer to as a “regular” teeth cleaning is officially termed a prophylaxis. If you are familiar with that term, you know that it means preventive. Dental professionals commonly call it simply a “prophy”. The purpose of a prophy is to prevent gum disease. It does not treat gum disease.
During a prophy, your dental hygienist removes all of the soft plaque and hard tartar buildup from the teeth on the exposed surfaces of the teeth and does not work underneath the gums. In general, this means removing buildup from enamel and polishing the cleaned surface to a glossy smooth finish.
What is a “Deep Cleaning”?
A “deep cleaning” is what many people call scaling and root planing, a procedure that treats gum disease. The descriptor “deep” refers to the need for the dentist or hygienist to remove buildup that collects underneath the gums. A “regular” cleaning and a “deep” cleaning are actually in totally different categories. One serves to prevent disease, and the other is a treatment for disease that is already present.
Gum disease, as we mentioned earlier, destroys the gums and bone surrounding the teeth. It results from the bacteria collecting at and below the gums. As the toxins destroy surrounding bone, a small gap opens between the tooth’s root and the gums, which we call a “pocket”. This pocket then becomes a perfect collection spot for more bacteria, which means that this disease cycle will not stop without intervention. Your toothbrush bristles and floss cannot reach the depth of a pocket more than three millimeters deep.
Therefore, one of the characteristics of gum disease is having one or more pockets that are four millimeters or deeper. The next time your dentist or hygienist takes a bunch of measurements and calls out numbers to someone recording them, listen for anything 4 or higher.
Gum disease can occur in one tiny localized area or on every tooth in your mouth. The primary cause is always bacterial buildup, but there are also predisposing factors like diabetes and genetics.
What’s the Danger of Having a Regular Cleaning when You Really Need a Deep Cleaning?
Now that you understand the difference in these procedures, you might have already put it together. If you need a deep cleaning and only have a “regular” cleaning, any of the bacterial buildup below the gums remains. It continues producing toxins and continues destroying the gums and bone.
Patients who need deep cleanings and do not get them have progressively worsening gum disease. As we said earlier, it will go on and on without intervention. The buildup produces a gap or pocket, which allows for more buildup, which destroys more bone making the pocket deeper, which allows for more buildup, etc . . .
The only way to stop the cycle of gum disease is to undergo the necessary treatment to remove all bacteria from underneath the gums. In some patients, the gum disease becomes so severe that surgery is necessary to reach all of the bacteria and remove it.
More Questions about Professional Teeth Cleanings?
Call Prosper Family Dentistry at 972-347-1145 today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Jill and Dr. Cara. They can answer any question you have about gum disease and teeth cleanings and assess your specific situation.