What are dental cleanings?
While good oral hygiene with proper brushing and flossing is essential to maintaining clean healthy teeth, professional dental cleanings are still recommended at least once every 6 months. This is because brushing and flossing cannot remove all the buildup that accumulates on teeth. Therefore, these cleanings are necessary to help prevent gum (periodontal) disease, tooth loss, gingivitis, bad breath (halitosis) and even oral cancer. A professional dental cleaning usually consists of plaque and tartar removal with hand instruments followed by a prophy polish.
Plaque refers to a thin layer of gelatinous, sticky film that forms on our teeth from the oral bacteria buildup and deposits. It acts as a shield and allows the bacteria to feast on food particles and leads to production of lactic acid byproduct. If not removed, this thin layer can build up overtime to a hard and chalky substance called tartar. This can lead to periodontal disease, gingivitis and even tooth loss.
Tartar is basically an increase of calcium residues on the surface of the teeth. Because of its toothy color, they can be wrongly thought of as part of the tooth. In some cases though, the build-up can appear anywhere from a brown or black in color. If the calculus or tartar is allowed to build up, it can promote bacterial growth near gums.
Dental cleaning, which involves cleaning and polishing, will thoroughly clean and even out the tooth surface. This will strip the teeth from all the plaque, therefore preventing bacterial growth.
This procedure is referred to as prophylaxis, which is a Greek word that means “to prevent beforehand”, which in dentistry, refers to the prevention of gum disease.