Professional Dental Cleanings Come in Many Sizes


5 Types of Dental Cleanings Explained

When you think of a dental cleaning, what comes to mind? It’s likely the standard cleaning that you get during your regular dental evaluation, but did you know that there’s more than one type of dental cleaning? These types of dental cleanings are designed to meet your unique needs by cleaning different parts of your teeth or addressing specific oral health issues. Knowing the basics of each type, including what they’re used for and why, can be the key to understanding any special cleanings your dentist may recommend. We want to make learning and understanding this easy, so we’ve created a guide to the 5 types of dental cleanings.

1. Prophylaxis Cleaning

A prophylaxis cleaning is just a fancy, official term for the type of cleaning that likely comes to mind when you think of dental cleanings: the routine cleaning you get during your twice-yearly dental evaluation. During this type of cleaning, a dental hygienist will thoroughly floss and brush your teeth. They’ll also use a specialized tool to remove plaque and hardened tartar from their surface. Removing tartar, which is plaque that has hardened and bonded to the surface of your tooth, is a particularly vital part of this regular cleaning because tartar provides a better surface for oral bacteria to adhere to, increasing your risk of decay.

By ridding your teeth of plaque and tartar, the cleaning actively helps to prevent oral health issues like cavities and gum disease. It also provides an opportunity for Dr. Tomasik and your dental hygienist to spot any existing signs of these issues early, as well as signs of other issues like dental injuries, bruxism, and oral cancer. Plus, since tartar is often tinted yellow or brown, the cleaning also has a role in dental cosmetics by helping your smile look whiter and brighter than when you entered our Bee Cave dentist office!

2. Gross Debridement

If you haven’t been to the dentist in over a year, you likely have some tartar buildup that you won’t be able to remove from your teeth at home. Even with a great oral hygiene routine, most people experience some amount of tartar buildup, so there’s a chance that a lot of plaque and tartar have built up on your teeth. If this is the case, a gross debridement is used to clean plaque and tartar from the surface of your teeth and around your gums. A huge buildup of plaque and tartar is bad for your oral health because it can easily lead to cavities or gum disease, but it can also interfere with your hygienist’s ability to clean your teeth properly as well as Dr. Tomasik’s ability to examine your teeth. That’s why this step is so vital for people who have a buildup like this—it’s a crucial part of examining and protecting your current and long-term oral health. Since tartar adheres to your teeth so stubbornly, a gross debridement takes longer than standard dental cleanings, but once it’s complete, you’ll likely continue with the steps of a typical dental appointment, such as a regular dental cleaning, exam, and X-rays if they need to be updated.

3. Scaling or Root Planing

Scaling or root planing are often used—separately or together—to provide a deep cleaning of your teeth that extends beyond the gum line. In fact, the treatments are often simply referred to together as a deep cleaning. This cleaning is done when you’re suffering from an oral health issue like gum disease, including gingivitis that isn’t responding to at-home care or a mild to moderate case of periodontitis. These dental cleaning methods are more invasive than your typical cleaning, but they’re a great nonsurgical treatment for gum disease! During scaling, Dr. Tomasik uses special tools to reach beneath your gum line and clean bacteria from your tooth root. Once this is complete, he will often perform root planing, which involves smoothing down the surface of your tooth root. This makes it more difficult for oral bacteria to adhere to the surface of your tooth in the future, so it can play a role in helping to prevent future decay.

4. Periodontal Maintenance

Severe periodontitis can do lasting damage to your gums, teeth, and jawbone, including bone loss and the creation of deep pockets in your gums that tend to collect food debris and plaque. These pockets are difficult to clean and can increase your likelihood of developing decay or gum disease again in the future, so it’s important to clean them regularly. If you have these, however, a regular prophylaxis cleaning often isn’t enough. That’s where periodontal maintenance comes in!

During this type of dental cleaning, Dr. Tomasik cleans your teeth and the pockets between them very thoroughly. The process involves removing plaque and tartar from your teeth both above and below the gum line. These treatments are spaced at regular intervals, but how often they’re needed depends on several factors, including how deep the pockets are, how well you care for your teeth at home, if you have health conditions that make you more vulnerable to gum disease, and more. No matter how often you need it, periodontal maintenance is a vital part of preventing future periodontitis—and therefore a vital part of keeping you and your mouth healthy!

5. Pocket Reduction Surgery

In cases of extreme periodontitis, deep cleaning methods like scaling and root planing often aren’t enough to remove all of the bacteria from beneath your gum line. To tackle this problem, this treatment combines a surgical treatment with deep cleaning methods to clean your tooth roots directly. During the cleaning process, Dr. Tomasik is also able to reduce the size of the pockets that have formed as a result of your gum disease, making it easier to clean your teeth and gums and reducing your risk of getting gum disease in the future. This is a more invasive type of cleaning, so Dr. Tomasik will likely try other methods like scaling and root planing before recommending it. When it is necessary, however, it can be the key to reclaiming your oral health and protecting it in the future!

While you may be surprised to learn about the different dental cleaning methods out there, having access to these methods allows you to get the type of cleaning that is best for where your oral health is at right now. It allows you to get the most benefit from your cleaning, setting you on the path to a cleaner, healthier mouth. If you have any questions about these types of cleanings and what may be best for you, feel free to schedule a consultation with Dr. Tomasik at any time.