What is Dental Prophylaxis and How Often Should it be Done?
Posted by Dr. Julie Boudreault On 15-05-2019
“Dental prophylaxis” is a professional cleaning procedure performed at our office to get rid of plaque build-up that regular brushing and flossing can’t reach. Regardless of how diligent you are with home oral care, a regular professional dental cleaning is required to stop decay and the progression of gum disease.
Why is dental prophylaxis required?Although your home dental care regime might be effective, there are many dental problems that are hard to spot or even prevent at home. Many dental issues do not cause pain or show any obvious signs. During your dental prophylaxis appointment, we can diagnose these problems with a thorough examination. We can look for decay and cavities and provide treatments that will help you avoid painful, costly restorations down the road. We will also remove the build-up of tartar and plaque that can lead to decay and gum disease.
What is plaque and tartar?
Plaque is a sticky invisible film that contains millions of bacteria. Only a professional cleaning can remove plaque. When left in your mouth, the living bacteria will continue to grow. This, in hand with food debris and saliva, produces toxins that can cause tooth decay and inflame your gums.
Inflamed gums or “gingivitis” is the first stage of periodontal disease. If left to develop, it becomes a more serious condition called periodontitis. When plaque is not removed, it turns into a harder substance called tartar. This is even harder to remove than plaque and leads to cavities.
When tartar and calculus form above and below the gum line, they must be removed using dental instruments before they cause serious gum, teeth, and bone problems.
How often is dental prophylaxis required?
If you practice excellent oral hygiene at home, a professional dental cleaning is only required twice a year. In fact, in some cases for those with exceptional dental health, you might even be able to visit every nine months. However, if you have signs of gum disease, cleanings are recommended every three to four months. This is necessary to help avoid progression to serious issues including tooth loss. If periodontitis sets in, it cannot be completely reversed. An effective cleaning plan will help stop the progression of gum disease and its damaging effects.
We might determine you are at high risk of dental disease for a number of reasons. This can include those who smoke, have gum disease, and those who get a lot of cavities. If you are pregnant, diabetic, or have a weakened immune system, more frequent appointments might be required. This is why it is important to let us know about health conditions, as they can affect your prophylaxis schedule.
What are the benefits of cleanings?
There are many benefits to cleanings including:
- Plaque removal
- Tartar removal
- Whiter, shinier teeth
- Fresher breath
- A preventative approach to managing dental and oral health
- Stain removal
What to expect at your cleaning appointments
Your professional cleaning will include scaling to remove plaque and tartar. You will also have a professional polishing to remove staining that toothpaste alone cannot remove. You will also receive a comprehensive dental exam that will include:
- Disease Screening: We will check your face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, and gums for any signs of abnormal conditions, including cancer.
- Periodontal Evaluation: We will look for signs of periodontal disease, including bleeding, swelling, redness of the gums, and bad breath.
- Examination of the Teeth: We will check all tooth surfaces for decay, as well as the condition of any restorative work, like fillings and crowns.
- X-rays: In some cases, X-rays will be taken to look for signs of further issues.
- Oral Care Recommendations: Following your exam and cleaning, we will make recommendations that will help you optimize your oral health regime at home. This can include flossing more often or paying closer attention to certain areas where there might be more plaque build-up. We might also give you brushing tips if you seem to be brushing too aggressively.
- Periodontal Probing: We will measure the depth of your gum tissue with a periodontal probe.
- Fluoride Treatment: Fluoride treatments are applied using a flavoured foam or gel and dental trays to protect and strengthen tooth enamel.
Any issues will be reported to your dentist and treatment will be recommended.
Why do you need fluoride?
Fluoride is important for children because it helps build strong enamel as their adult teeth are developing. For adults, it also helps protect tooth enamel. Your enamel is the surface of your teeth that comes into contact with plaque. As mentioned earlier, the bacteria in plaque is destructive and will erode and weaken enamel as it feeds off the minerals in enamel. This is called “demineralization”, which is fought with the saliva in your mouth. Without proper care, however, your enamel becomes weak and the natural demineralization fighting abilities are weakened.
Fluoride promotes remineralization, making the replaced enamel stronger and preventing further enamel breakdown. Fluoride also fights acids by blocking the harmful enzymes contained in plaque, preventing the acid build-up that can eat away at tooth enamel.
Some patients need antibiotic prophylaxis to help prevent infection. This can include people with heart conditions, such as prosthetic cardiac valves or those with prosthetic joints. Without antibiotics, prophylaxis can cause infective endocarditis in those with some heart conditions.
Regular dental appointments also provide an opportunity to discuss your concerns with your dentist. We can also review treatments such as cosmetic dentistry, whitening, and smile improving procedures you might be considering. We will provide you with one-on-one time with our team so questions can be asked and treatment plans can be created to help you reach your dental health goals.
Regular cleanings are a must for healthy, brighter smiles and to maintain optimum oral health for life. To book your next cleaning, contact Milltown Dental today at (905) 878-8528.