Dental prophylaxis is the periodic cleaning of teeth that have been determined to have a relatively healthy periodontal condition (the gums are relatively healthy). The cleaning is typically done above the gumline in order to remove plaque, stains and calculus (tartar) from the teeth.
It’s important to do this because continued accumulation of plaque and tartar will result in inflamed gum tissues that lose their attachment to the tooth roots and bone, causing deepening periodontal pockets. These pockets allow the plaque and calculus to develop encrustations below the gumline, causing the body to destroy its own bone and resulting in collateral damage to the dental bone in the body’s effort to combat the invading bacteria in the plaque.
Scaling and root planing is recommended if periodontal pocket measurements indicate the presence of periodontal disease. It involves using specialized instruments to clean and remove plaque and calculus that is below the gums. In our office, pocket depths 5mm or greater indicate the need to provide this specialized type of therapy.
Because of the need to clean under the gums, it’s often necessary to numb the gums for this procedure. In order for the gums to respond positively to the therapy, more frequent hygiene visits are recommended so that the gums have a better likelihood of reattaching to the teeth and bone. These follow-up cleanings are called periodontal maintenance appointments.
Laser-assisted pocket curettage and disinfection is the use of a laser to assist in cleaning below the gumline and to reduce bacteria and infection in the pockets. In doing this, colonies of bacteria in the pockets of the gum are more effectively eliminated. In our office, we will recommend and perform this if conditions are not improving enough with non-laser therapy alone.
Fluoride treatments involve the use of a fluoride varnish painted onto the teeth in order to make the tooth surfaces more decay-resistant and hard. In our office, we recommend the use of fluoride treatment for all patients with a history of decay or who are showing signs of decalcification (pre-decay) on their teeth.
Dental sealants are a resin that’s placed over and into the fissures (the deep grooves) on the chewing surfaces of back teeth in order to keep sugars and plaque from getting a foothold and causing tooth decay in these decay-prone areas.
These fissures in the teeth are often wide enough for sugar molecules and bacteria to be lodged in them, but too narrow for a toothbrush bristle to get in deep enough to clean out the bacteria. Sealants are placed instead of fillings only before decay is present. Sealants do not prevent decay from forming between teeth, however. So, don't forget to floss.