The Basics of Dental Cleanings

No two dental patients are built exactly the same. For each patient that enters the dentist office, the dental hygienist will assess their needs and determine which type of cleaning will be necessary that day.

The most common type of cleaning is general prophylaxis. This type of cleaning involves a combination of hand scaling and ultrasonic scaling, followed by polishing and flossing. Patients who visit the office regularly will normally receive a general prophylaxis during their dental appointments.

Another common type of cleaning is a debridement. This is a periodontal cleaning. This type of cleaning is needed when a patient has been neglecting their regular dental visits for too long. A dental debridement focuses primarily on removing all of the heavy calculus and tartar that has been built up over time. This involves the use of the ultrasonic scaler in addition to the hand scaler.

A dental debridement is split into two parts. Two to four weeks after the initial visit, the patient is expected to return to the dentist’s office for a follow up fine scale cleaning. This visit is more similar to the general prophylaxis. The hygienist will hand scale, ultrasonic scale, polish, and floss the teeth.

Before any teeth cleaning, the dental hygienist will use a tool called a probe to measure the depths of the pockets between the gum and the tooth in various positions around the tooth. If the pocket depths are deep enough, the patient will begin to qualify for scaling and root planing, referred to as SRP. To qualify for an SRP a patient’s teeth will also need to have radiographic evidence of calculus in their checkup x-rays along with the appropriate probing depths.

The SRP is normally a two-part process, with each visit to the dental hygienist lasting approximately two hours. The hygienist will clean one side of the mouth per visit and the patient will need to be numbed with local anesthetic for this particular dental cleaning. This cleaning requires the use of the ultrasonic scaler with a special periodontal tip. Six weeks after the SRP is completed, the patient is expected to return for a fine scale, similar to the follow-up after a debridement.

To get a patient back on track, the dentist and dental hygienist might recommend more frequent visits to the dentistry office. These additional cleanings, more than the regular two visits per year, are referred to as periodontal maintenance. Periodontal maintenance cleanings are normally for patients with periodontal history, such as the debridement and SRP. The periodontal maintenance cleaning is similar in procedure to the general prophylaxis and fine scale cleanings.

There is a dental visit that is right for each individual patient and it can be determined once the dental hygienist is able to complete their assessment. If you haven’t been in for a teeth cleaning in a long time, there is no need to worry. You can easily get back on the right track with your dental hygiene! The first step to getting back on track with your dental hygiene is to schedule an appointment at your dentist’s office.

At Smileworks General and Cosmetic Dentistry, patients are able to receive whichever non-surgical dental cleaning is necessary for their specific case. Typically dental insurance covers two traditional cleanings per year, but with history of periodontal disease, a patient has the potential to have up to four covered cleanings per year in order to maintain good oral hygiene. Remaining current with your teeth cleanings not only keeps you from having to experience the more invasive deep cleanings but it also can save you money by catching, addressing, and preventing problems as soon as they arise.