Dental Cleanings: Prophylaxis and Periodontal Health
Dentists refer to a routine cleaning appointment as a dental prophylaxis, or prophy. Its most significant functions are in the prevention of dental disease and the promotion of patient education. It is the most important and valuable visit a patient may ever make to the dentist.
We encourage our patients to have their mouth examined on a regular basis. Our focus is on the entire mouth, not just a patient’s teeth. By seeing the dentist on a routine basis, cavities are diagnosed in their infancy stage and can be restored easily. When left untreated for a prolonged length of time, the need for more extensive and costly treatment may be necessary. It is very important to have all plaque and tartar removed routinely to help prevent perio disease, which could potentially cause a loss of teeth. We also recommend that patients who smoke, use tobacco, or have any suspicious lesions to take advantage of the new, painless, oral cancer test to ensure a completely healthy mouth.
The typical dental cleaning should include:
- Personal oral hygiene evaluation, home care review, and recommendations to help you improve your technique
- Tooth brushing and flossing instructions
- Supra gingival (above the gums) scaling to remove plaque and tartar from all visible tooth structures
- Debridement of tartar beneath the gums
- Topical fluoride treatment
- Teeth polishing
- Nutrition assessment, if needed
- Periodontal charting
- Visual oral cancer screening
- Oral cancer test, if needed
- Treatment planning of any necessary dental restorations
Regular dental cleanings are especially important for children to establish good oral hygiene practice and to appreciate the importance of dental health. Painless dental cleaning appointments will help create self-esteem in children and let them get acquainted with our staff. Being familiar with our office lessens anxiety, should dental restorative care become necessary in the future. The regular application of topical fluoride, early detection of bite problems, and an evaluation for pit and fissure sealants are a very important part of preventive dental health.
How much should I brush?
It’s important to brush at least twice a day using a soft toothbrush. The flexible bristles of a soft toothbrush are gentler on the gums, and make it much easier to remove the plaque below the gumline, where periodontal disease starts. Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride. Fluoride hardens the outer enamel layer of the teeth. It might stop a cavity in its tracks and give you more resistance to future cavities.
Move the brush over the entire surface of two or three teeth at a time in small, circular motions. Allow some overlap as you move to the next teeth. Tilt the brush and use the tip to brush the backs of the front teeth.
What about Flossing?
To keep your gums and teeth healthy, you must remove the plaque between your teeth at least once a day. Dr. Billings recommends dental floss.
How to use dental floss:
- Wind about 18 inches of floss around the middle fingers of each hand, leaving about five inches between your hands. Pinch the floss between your thumbs and index fingers and leave about one inch in between to work with.
- Gently guide the floss down between the teeth using a side-to-side motion. If your teeth are too tight to floss, or if it catches or tears, let us know about it. These are problems that need to be fixed.
- Pull the floss tightly in a C shape around the side of the tooth and slide it under the gumline. Clean the side of the tooth by using an up-and-down motion, not side-to-side. When all the plaque has been removed the floss will squeak as it rubs against your tooth. Then pull the floss around the next tooth and repeat the process.
- Wind the floss to a fresh section and gradually work your way around your mouth, cleaning both sides of every tooth. If you have problems reaching some areas you may want to use a floss fork.