A regular dental cleaning, a root planing procedure, and periodontal maintenance are not the same. In this blog post, we will explain the differences.
Standard Dental Cleaning
A standard dental cleaning, known as prophylaxis is the removal of of plaque, calculus and stains from the tooth structures. Dental instruments are used to scrape away the deposits from the teeth, and an electric device called an ultra-sonic or sonic scaler may also be used. Deposit removal is performed on teeth that have not been affected by bone loss, typically the crowns of the teeth.
A regular teeth cleaning is recommended for persons who do not have any bone loss, periodontal disease or infection around their teeth. There should also be no bleeding, mobility of teeth in receded areas or gaps where the spaces around the roots of the teeth are exposed.
How often should I have my teeth cleaned?
The old system of everyone having their teeth cleaned only twice a year has fallen out of favor. While some people may be able to maintain their dental health with semi-annual cleanings, many patients find that their mouths and teeth stay in better shape when they have their teeth cleaned more frequently. Many dentists and hygienists are now setting up their patients’ cleaning schedule based on individual needs, and it can be as often as four times per year.
While a twice yearly insurance payment toward the cost of teeth cleaning is common, that type of payment arrangement actually has no relationship to what the patient might actually need. People who have heavy plaque and calculus buildup as well as those with certain conditions like diabetes, may require more frequent cleanings.
Root Planing Procedure
Root planing removes bacteria and their toxins, tartar, and diseased deposits from the surfaces of tooth roots. Scraping or scaling is required the full length of the root surface, down to where the root, gum and bone meet. Root planing is typically one of the first steps in treating gum and bone disease also known as periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is very common, but does not always have distinct symptoms. It is an inflammation and infection of the gums, bone ligaments and root surfaces that eventually results in the loss of teeth. You may notice that your gums bleed easily, that you have a bad taste in your mouth, that your gums appear red or swollen, that your teeth appear longer or have shifted. Or you may not notice anything at all.
After your periodontal disease process is under control, a regular dental cleaning may no longer be appropriate. Instead you will require special on-going gum and bone care procedures, also known as periodontal maintenance to keep your mouth healthy.
A periodontal maintenance procedure is not the same treatment as a regular cleaning even though a hygienist may perform both services. A periodontal maintenance procedure, also known as supportive periodontal treatment (SPT), includes but may not be limited to:
- An update of your medical and dental history
- X-ray review
- Mouth/face exam-inside and outside including cheeks, lips, tongue, gums and throat
- Tooth examination by the dentist
- Gum and bone examination which entails periodontal probing around each tooth to check for bone loss.
- Review of home care
- Scaling and root planing as needed
- Gums and pocket irrigation with medicine as needed.
Typically, an interval of three months between appointments is effective, but more frequent appointments may be needed.