Dental cleanings are the key to a great smile that lasts a lifetime! Healthy teeth and gums are important for your smile, and for your overall health. Your teeth and gums are under attack every day from bacteria and decay-causing substances, though, and this can leave you with gum disease, cavities, and even lost teeth. Dental cleanings can protect your teeth and gums for the healthiest, most appealing smile possible.

The amount of calculus (also called hardened plaque/tarter), will determine if you need just a regular cleaning (prophy) or if there is need for a full mouth debridement. The accumulation of calculus will be thicker on your teeth the longer amount of time it has been since your last cleaning. Example: A patient that has had their teeth cleaned 6 months ago will have a light amount vs. a patient that has not had a cleaning in 5 years.

dental cleanings
dental cleanings

Why Dental Cleanings Are Important

The mouth is the perfect habitat for bacteria and other microorganisms to live. In fact, there are about 700 species of microorganism living in the average human mouth. While most are harmless or even beneficial, some can be harmful. Microbes can form a clear, sticky substance, known as plaque, which can build up on your teeth and gums, making dental cleanings vital.

Brushing and flossing removes plaque, but it returns almost immediately. Left in place, the plaque can harden into tartar, which is much tougher to remove. In fact, only your dentist or dental hygienist can remove tartar during a dental cleaning.

Tartar, also known as dental calculus, forms on teeth and gums. The bacteria in tartar can irritate and damage your gums. Irritation can cause your gums to swell, turn red, and become sensitive. This is the early form of gum disease, known as gingivitis.

Swollen gums can pull away from your teeth, causing pockets to develop between your teeth and your gums; dentists refer to this advanced form of gum disease as periodontitis. More bacteria-rich plaque can settle into these pockets to introduce bacteria below the gum line, where the bacteria can start eating away at the roots of your teeth. Left untreated, bacteria can cause tooth decay (cavities) that require fillings. Advanced gum disease can cause your teeth to loosen or even fall out.

During dental cleanings, dental hygienists perform a variety of procedures to remove plaque and tartar from the surface of teeth and gums, and from the pockets in the gums. Some dental cleaning procedures help the gums adhere to teeth to prevent further gum disease.

What Happens During Professional Dental Cleanings?

Professional dental cleanings can help prevent gingivitis, periodontitis, and cavities. During a professional dental cleaning, a dental hygienist or dentist will remove the plaque and tartar that lead to gum disease and tooth decay. They also polish the surface of teeth, which makes it harder for plaque and tartar to stick to teeth.

Dental health professionals perform several types of dental cleanings. The type of dental cleaning your dental professional suggests depends largely on how much plaque and tartar is on your teeth.


Prophylaxis is a general term for any treatment that prevents a disease from developing. Also known as “prophy” or a “regular cleaning,” prophylaxis dental treatment focuses on preventing gum disease and tooth decay. Our dentist may recommend prophylaxis if you have healthy teeth and gums, only a minimal amount of plaque, and no tartar. Prophylaxis treatment is usually accomplished in just one office visit.


Debridement involves removing heavy plaque, tartar, and stains. Your dentist may recommend debridement if you have plaque and tartar along with gingivitis or periodontal disease. Debridement typically is also accomplished in just one trip to your dentist.

Scaling and Root Planing

Scaling and root planing are deep cleaning procedures for patients who have existing plaque and tartar. Scaling involves removing the plaque and tartar from above and below the gumline, and from the bottom of pockets in the gums. Root planing focuses on smoothing the tooth roots to help the gums reattach to your teeth.

Scaling and root planing is beneficial to patients who have chronic periodontitis, which is late-stage gum disease that causes chronic inflammation. More than 47 percent of all people in the United States over the age of 30 have chronic periodontitis, according to the American Dental Association.

Periodontal Maintenance

Also known as “perio maintenance,” periodontal maintenance is a type of deep cleaning intended to prevent periodontal disease from progressing. Your dentist office staff will use a small tool or an ultrasonic cleaner to remove plaque and tartar from each periodontal pocket.

Dentists often recommend periodontal maintenance every three months, which is the amount of time it takes for bacteria to multiply and damage your teeth.

For more information about dental cleanings and to learn which type might be right for you, contact Kawveh Nofallah, DMD. We’re glad to help you reduce your risk for tooth decay and gum disease, and help you keep your smile bright!

Professional Dental Cleanings in Lakeland, FL

Professional dental cleanings (dental prophylaxis) are performed by Registered Dental Hygienists. Your cleaning appointment will include the following:

  • Removal of supragingival calculus (tartar): Calculus is hardened plaque that has been left on the tooth for some time and is now firmly attached to the tooth surface. Calculus forms above and below the gum line and can only be removed with special dental instruments
  • Removal of plaque: Plaque is a sticky, almost invisible film that forms on the teeth. It is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva. The bacteria produce toxins (poisons) that inflame the gums. This inflammation is the start of periodontal disease!
  • Teeth polishing: Remove stain and plaque that is not otherwise removed during tooth brushing and scaling.

Regular Cleaning (Prophy)

Removal of light calculus, plaque and stain in one visit for a patient with a healthy mouth

Full Mouth Debridement (at least 2 treatment visit)

Removal of heavy calculus, plaque and stain in the presence of gingivitis and/or periodontal disease.

Perio Maintenance

Removal of calculus, plaque and stain from above and below the gumline. Patient with periodontal disease need deeper cleaning at closer intervals of 3 or 4 months with careful monitoring of pocketing.

Scaling & Root Planning (SPR)

This process is for patients with deeper periodontal pockets under the gumline, which is sometimes referred to as deep cleaning. Find out more information about Scaling & Root Planning (SPR).

Comments are closed.