Brushing and flossing twice a day is an important part of a system of good oral hygiene, and so is seeing the dentist for checkups twice a year. Professional dental cleanings are also important. You may think that if you brush and floss regularly, you are keeping your teeth and gums clean and healthy so cleanings are not necessary. The tools you use at home to brush and floss your teeth are not as efficient as the tools professionals use. Most people get gum disease at some time or other in spite of their good oral hygiene at home. This is why regular cleanings are important as part of an overall plan of gum disease prevention.
There are different types of dental cleanings, and which one is performed depends on the health of the patient’s teeth and gums. Preventative cleanings thoroughly clean the teeth and the gums. The teeth are polished to make them smooth, which not only makes them look nice, but also makes it harder for bacteria to grow in grooves on the surface of the teeth. A fluoride treatment is often a part of a routine cleaning. A flavored fluoride mixture is placed in a tray that fits over the teeth. The fluoride helps to strengthen the teeth.
When gum disease is already present and in its earliest stage, which is called gingivitis, a cleaning uses special dental instruments to scrape off plaque and tartar. Bacteria that grows on the teeth first forms plaque, which is a sticky film, but if plaque is not completely removed, it will eventually harden to tartar. A cleaning can reverse gingivitis and keep it from advancing.
Deep cleaning is a method of cleaning that is performed when gingivitis has advanced to periodontitis. Periodontitis means that tartar is present below the gum line. A deep cleaning goes below the gum line to remove tartar, and then the root surfaces are smoothed to prevent further bacterial buildup. Deep cleaning is also called scaling and root planing.