prophy-angle-and-pasteAs you may know, in order to maintain overall health, good oral health is essential. There is an increasing amount of literature and scientific research showing the link between oral and overall health. Gum disease (such as periodontitis) and increased oral bacterial load have been linked to heart disease and heart attacks, among other systemic complications. With the evidence mounting, dental cleanings have become ever so essential to achieving overall health.

You are probably aware that most dentists recommend that you get a professional dental cleaning, or prophylaxis, every six months. This frequency may increase with presence of gum disease and build up. After doing and exam and taking periodontal measurements proper periodontal regiment can be decided by your dentist to ensure your oral cavity health is being maintained.


Prophylaxis, or “regular cleaning” as it is referred to sometimes, is a major part of an oral health care regimen needed to prevent cavities, gum disease and tooth loss brought on by dental disease. Prophylaxis can prevent the need for a costly dental treatment, such as a tooth filling or gum disease treatment.

Prophylaxis is usually done twice a year, based on an individual needs, as a preventative measure. It is a professional dental cleaning in which dental plaque, supragingival calculus (tartar), and other irritants are removed from the oral cavity. As these deposits build, they calcify turning hard becoming unable to be removed by regular brushing and flossing. If these build ups become large and start forming below the gum line, periodontal disease may ensue.

It is important to keep on track with prophylaxis treatments. This is the single most important treatment for prevention of periodontal disease, known as Periodontitis.

Scaling and Root Planing

root-scaling-and-planing-nj1Scaling and root planning, also referred to as “deep cleaning”, is done for the treatment of gum disease known as Periodontitis. Buildup of dental plaque and calculus below the gum line causes separation of gums from the root of the tooth, forming “pockets” between the teeth and the gums. These pockets are the active site of periodontal disease, in which bacteria actively damage ligaments which attach the gums to the teeth, as well as the bone that holds the teeth in the mouth. Main characteristics of periodontal disease are inflamed gums that bleed easily, “pocket” measurements above 3 mm, and supporting bone loss seen in x-rays.

A non-surgical approach, scaling and root planing is the first in a series of periodontal procedures used to treat gum disease. Although it is a non-painful procedure, dental anesthesia is used in most cases to numb the gums around the teeth to make the procedure more comfortable and eliminate minor sensitivity. During tooth scaling, an instrument called a scaler is used to remove dental plaque and dental calculus from beneath the gums. While it’s a common practice to manually scrape away deposits, many dental offices are now equipped with ultrasonic dental cleaners, which use ultrasound vibrations to break up dental calculus.

Once the dental plaque and dental calculus have been removed, the area that has been scraped leaves a jagged appearance. Planing is the procedure used to smooth the tooth’s root. Root planing helps gums heal and makes it easier for gums to reattach themselves to a smoother root surface. The smooth surface also helps keep dental plaque from reforming at attaching to the tooth’s surface, making it easier to maintain the gums following dental treatment. While scaling and root planing helps prevent gum disease from spreading, it may be able to reverse the signs of gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease.

Once the treatment is complete, preventative treatment is necessary to keep the gums healthy. Follow up appointment is necessary in 3-4 months so see how the gums have responded to the cleaning. A follow up cleaning will also be done at this time. Home oral care is vital. Brushing two times daily and flossing once will help reduce the dental plaque and calculus build up.

A simple procedure like scaling can reduce the disease’s effects and restore gums to a healthy state. Without proper treatment, gum disease can progress — literally to the point of no return! Remember: Once gum tissue is lost, it doesn’t grow back. The earlier you treat gum disease, the better chance you have of recovery.