The routine dental cleaning (also known as prophylaxis or teeth cleaning) every 6 months is the standard of care for patients with healthy gum tissue. Hardened calculus deposits, soft plaque deposits, and surface stains are removed, to maintain oral health and keep the smile esthetically pleasing.
Dental plaque is a combination of bacteria and food debris. Within the first few hours of plaque forming, it is soft and removable with a toothbrush and floss. However, any plaque that gets missed eventually hardens and continues to accumulate because of the naturally occurring mineral content in saliva. Once plaque hardens, it is called calculus (also known as tartar) and it can only be removed professionally. The mouth is a place where bacteria can easily thrive due to the constant moisture, food, and warmth of body temperature. The bacteria in plaque and calculus are capable of causing gum disease when left untreated.
The hygienist or dentist removes calculus (tartar), plaque, and surface stains along the margin of the gum line and teeth with an ultrasonic scaler, hand instruments, a prophy brush, and prophy paste. During this appointment, the general tissues of the head and neck are examined, as well as the teeth, gums, and jaw. Routine X-rays are taken and evaluated once per year during the hygiene visit, as recommended by the American Dental Association. The x-rays are necessary to examine the areas between the teeth and check the health of the bone supporting them. Individualized home care instructions and recommendations are reviewed to help each patient achieve their oral health goals.
Brush for at least 2 minutes, 2 times daily. Ensure the toothbrush overlaps the gum line and reaches all tooth surfaces. Soft-bristled, electric toothbrushes used with fluoridated, low-abrasive toothpaste is optimal.
- Floss at least once per day, ensuring the floss tapers to the curve of each individual tooth and reaches underneath the gum line to remove the plaque between the teeth effectively.
The dentist and hygienist evaluate the health of the gum tissue at each visit, and if the gum tissue needs improvement, and/or if there is calculus buildup deeper below the gum line, additional treatment may be necessary.
For example, the dentist or hygienist may recommend additional care in the form of more frequent dental cleanings in the following cases:
- patients with history of periodontal disease or history of scaling and root planning
- patients currently in orthodontic treatment
- physical limitations that impair proper home care, for example in patients with rheumatoid arthritis
- patients with genetic or systemic factors that increase their risk of gum disease
Virtually all dental insurance plans cover routine dental cleanings. While the allowed frequency and copays may vary, more often than not routine dental cleanings are fully covered by dental insurance. The office of Dr. Mazen Natour will handle all insurance matters for its patients. Please call us if you have any questions about your coverage.