Prophylaxis appointments, more commonly known as a dental cleaning and check-up appointment, are a standard preventive measure in dental medicine, which involves professionally cleaning your teeth and inspecting your mouth for signs of any issues. At-home oral care is very important. of course, but seeing Dr. Parasher at regular intervals is still recommended for continuing dental health. If you’re not familiar with dental prophylaxis, you may wonder exactly what it is and why you need it.
What to Expect During Your Dental Cleaning Appointment
A prophylaxis or dental cleaning appointment is a routine, preventive procedure. Your dental hygienist will update your medical history to see if there have been any changes in your health, such as pregnancy, new diagnosis, medications, or other updates. They will also do a physical and visual examination of your mouth to screen for oral cancer or anything else that might require medical attention.
X-rays help your dentist identify potential oral health problems that aren’t visible to the naked eye, like cavities or impacted wisdom teeth, for example. When your dental professional determines it’s time for you to get X-rays, you will probably get bite-wing X-rays of your molar and premolar teeth. Some dental practices also take pictures of the anterior incisor teeth, which are in the front of your bite. The ADA recommends that you and your dentist discuss their plan for X-rays so that you can make decisions together.
If you have excellent oral health and regularly see your dental professional, your dentist may recommend X-rays less often than if you’re at risk for oral health issues. Factors that dental professionals consider when determining the frequency at which you should get X-rays include the following:
- Oral health
- Risk for disease
- If you already have signs of oral disease
- Discomfort in your mouth
Once your dental hygienist updates your medical history, they will visually examine your gum tissue and conduct a periodontal probing. This involves measuring the depth of your gum tissue with a tool known as a periodontal probe. It’s crucial to measure gum tissue because our gums should fit snug around our teeth. Due to poor oral hygiene, age, or medical conditions, our gums may pull away from our teeth, creating pockets where food particles and bacteria can get stuck.
Teeth Inspection & Cleaning
Besides periodontal probing, your dental hygienist will inspect your teeth. This is to alert your dentist of any areas that should be checked for potential tooth decay. Lastly, they will perform a dental cleaning using special instruments (ultrasonic and hand) to remove plaque and tartar from your teeth and beneath your gumline. Your hygienist will also polish your teeth to remove tooth stains and then clean between your teeth with floss (also known as interdental cleaning).
Ongoing Oral Care Recommendations
Your dental hygienist and dentist are a good source of knowledge for questions and concerns surrounding at-home oral care. They can make recommendations for taking better care of your mouth and demonstrate proper oral care techniques. They’ll remind you to rinse after eating and to brush your teeth twice per day, floss once per day, and use a mouthwash.
Full Mouth Examination
Following your dental hygienist’s work, your dentist will then perform a full examination of your mouth. This includes examining your teeth, gums, and the rest of your mouth for signs of disease, and reviewing any X-rays that were taken.
Why Regular Professional Dental Cleaning is Necessary
If you take good care of your teeth at home, you may be wondering why your dentist says you need regular cleanings. The primary reason is dental problems may go unnoticed in their early stages. They may not cause pain or have visible signs. However, a dental prophylaxis appointment can help your dental professionals diagnose these problems earlier, before they become more serious issues. For example, it’s common not to feel pain from a cavity when it first forms but your dentist will likely spot that forming cavity in your prophylaxis appointment and repair it before it gets larger and causes you discomfort and potentially more expense.
How Often to Do Dental Prophylaxis
The frequency of attending dental prophylaxis treatments is not a “one size fits all” situation. Insurance plans generally cover two cleaning visits per year but the American Dental Association (ADA) simply recommends adults see their dentist at least once per year, with twice annual visits being ideal.
However, If you have a history of periodontal disease, you should get your teeth cleaned every three or four months to prevent the recurrence of infections or disease. You should also have your teeth cleaned more often if you suffer from chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease due to their link to dental problems. Other groups that may need more frequent prophylaxis include people who smoke, people who often get cavities, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems.
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends children get a teeth cleaning and checkup every six months due to their rapidly changing dentition. Kids should start going to the dentist soon after their first tooth erupts or around their first birthday, whichever happens first.
A dental prophylaxis appointment is meant to serve as a preventive measure helping to keep your mouth healthy and your smile bright, while spotting any issues before they escalate to serious problems. With an oral examination, X-rays, periodontal probing, teeth cleaning, and a comfortable relationship with your dental professional in which discuss your questions and concerns, you are on the right track for great dental health!