A Dental Cleaning Isn’t Just a Cleaning

Jamie J. Alexander on July 23, 2018

You may have heard your dental hygienist refer to your teeth cleaning appointment as a “Prophy” because it is a prophylactic treatment to remove plaque buildup and the bacteria that create an acidic environment that erodes enamel and inflames gum tissue. Even in healthy mouths, this clinical cleaning is needed at least every six months to keep dental disease and gum disease at bay. During the cleaning process, the teeth are individually scraped, gum pockets are cleaned, teeth are expertly flossed, and teeth are polished, leaving them smooth and brighter. The process removes some superficial stains.

Dental Cleanings with Dr. Alexander

A lot more happens during periodic dental cleanings, at Jamie J. Alexander, D.D.S., in Boynton Beach.

In addition to having your teeth cleaned, we will update your medical history, and your mouth will be thoroughly examined. If you are due for x-rays, they will be recommended. We’ll be making a detailed record of findings and tracking changes that may be occurring in your mouth since your last appointment. This is an ideal opportunity to share any observations, concerns, or new goals you have for your oral health and smile. It’s the ideal time to ask questions and receive advice for improving your oral health care. If problem areas are being watched or you have delayed recommended treatment, a conversation about this will enable you to move forward with decisions to restore optimal oral health, function and smile appearance. You will be offered a topical fluoride treatment to maintain strong dental enamel between visits. You can even extend your cleaning appointment with scheduled time for teeth whitening.

During the thorough examination of your mouth, multiple things are being determined. Do you have gum inflammation? Do you have dental caries? Have your gum pockets increased or decreased in depth? Do we see any symptoms of oral cancer? Do we see any signs of wear or other damage on your teeth? Are any of your dental restorations or appliances showing signs of damage or becoming loose? Are there stains on your teeth that whitening could remove? Are any teeth shifting or becoming loose? The list of what we look for is long.

Our dental hygienist will spend some time probing your gum tissue to measure the depth of the gum pocket around each tooth. Gum probing is a necessary part of identifying the early signs of gum infection. By measuring your gum pockets at each appointment, the hygienist can keep track of the slightest changes to help detect problems early. You may notice some bleeding and discomfort around some teeth during the probing. This is typically symptomatic of inflamed gum tissue. If you are very uncomfortable, a topical numbing ointment can be applied to alleviate the discomfort.

Dental Cleanings to Address Gums

Gums are naturally fit snugly against the base of teeth. If you have healthy gum tissue, the pockets around teeth will measure one to three millimeters. When a pocket measures above four millimeters and bleeding occurs, this generally means an infection is present. The gum tissue has pulled away from irritating bacteria that is adhered to the base of the tooth. Unfortunately, this pulling away or recession can give the bacteria a deeper pocket in which to grow, and it becomes even more difficult for you to clean away bacteria trapped inside. This is when clinical treatment is needed to eliminate bacteria and enable the gum tissue to heal.

If you have some gum pockets at a depth of four millimeters or greater, we can apply an antibiotic inside the pockets at the time of your cleaning. If you have gum pockets of five millimeters, we will schedule a subsequent appointment for root “planing and scaling” treatment. This treatment involves thoroughly numbing the gum tissue, pulling it away from the base of the tooth and then using special tools to scrape away plaque that has grown down along the sides of roots. This treatment is done a section at a time. Depending on the number and location of your deep gum pockets, more than one appointment may be needed for this treatment.

Make Your Dental Cleaning Appointment

At Jamie J. Alexander, D.D.S., we know the brightness, whiteness, and healthy appearance of your teeth is important to you. And, healthy gum tissue is beautiful, too! We also know you want to limit the dentistry you need by finding problems early. If it has been more than six months since your last dental cleaning and checkup, you are now overdue. Contact us today!