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All About Prophylaxis Cleaning in Houston, TX

Learn about the advantages of getting prophylaxis cleaning at Nu Dentistry

By Jessie
Photography by Pete

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What is oral prophylaxis treatment?

Dental prophylaxis is the technical term dentists use for routine cleaning. It is typically done for patients with good oral hygiene and no gum disease. As a preventative procedure (prophylaxis means ‘a treatment to prevent disease’), the hygienist focuses on removing any plaque, tartar (calculus), and other buildups that are above the gum line. This is important to prevent common dental diseases that can develop due to poor or insufficient oral care. Daily brushing and flossing are crucial for healthy teeth and gums, but everyone still needs periodic cleanings to hit those hard-to-reach places and remove buildup that otherwise become a breeding ground for cavity-causing and harmful bacteria. Depending on the amount of cleaning you need, oral prophylaxis can take around 20-30 minutes. A dental hygienist may also polish your teeth to remove surface stains. Regular cleanings are an easy and excellent way to maintain great oral health and prevent cavities.

Is prophylaxis a deep cleaning?

Prophylaxis is a surface cleaning, not a deep cleaning. The purpose of a prophylaxis procedure is to clean above the gum line to prevent gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and periodontal disease (disease of the supporting structures). In contrast, a dentist may recommend a deep cleaning when someone shows signs of gum disease. In this case, deep cleaning will remove plaque and buildup below the gum line. Because cleaning under the gums can be sensitive and sometimes painful, dentists will often give local anesthesia or medicine to numb the areas they need to clean. On the other hand, routine prophylaxis typically does not require any numbing unless you have a sensitive spot here or there. In this case, speak up, and they can put some topical numbing gel on those areas to make you more comfortable. After a deep cleaning, patients need to be on a maintenance program and should come in more often (every 3-4 months) for regular checkups and cleanings to ensure their oral health is improving.

How often should you have oral prophylaxis?

If you do not have any significant dental health concerns, ideally, you should have prophylaxis performed every six months or, at a minimum, once a year. With proper at-home care (brushing and flossing regularly), prophylaxis cleanings twice a year will help you stay well ahead of bacteria-causing plaque and tartar buildup. If you go too long between teeth cleanings, you risk gum inflammation and cavities, as brushing and flossing alone will not remove buildup. Some people incorrectly think that simply brushing harder or using a stiff-bristled toothbrush will remove plaque, but this could instead begin to remove your teeth’s protective enamel and cause your gums to recede. Consistent home care following your dentist’s advice and regular cleanings every 6 months is your best defense. If you do have indications of gum or periodontal disease, such as bleeding and redness when brushing your teeth, your dentist may recommend prophylaxis treatments every three to four months. Although gum disease cannot be completely reversed, regular cleanings can effectively halt their progress.

Why do teeth feel weird after cleaning?

We all get used to how our mouth and teeth feel day to day, so it is easy to notice all the (good) changes after a thorough cleaning. If your teeth are particularly sensitive afterward, avoid hot or cold beverages for about an hour. You may also want to avoid crunchy foods such as chips or pretzels that could poke your gums. While the new sensations after cleaning can feel different, it’s very normal and just temporary. If you find that your teeth are always sensitive during or after your cleanings, you might consider switching to desensitizing toothpaste that your dentist recommends. This will help make your teeth more resilient to any pain you might feel while they’re scraping off buildups. However, if your symptoms last longer than a few weeks, you should contact your oral care provider to talk about your concerns.

Your hygienist has various tools available to use to clean your teeth, including dental scalers, ultra-sonic scalers, water pics, and polishers. They will polish your teeth at the end of your cleaning to catch any small deposits that they might have missed and to help your teeth feel smooth again. Once you’re all done, you will likely notice new gaps and spaces between your teeth after your cleaning, especially on the inside of your lower front teeth where your tongue touches them. What you’re feeling are all the places that used to be coated with hard, mineralized deposits, and now you’re feeling those clean edges and gaps again. Even though your teeth might feel weird after prophylaxis, there is no need to worry. You can feel great knowing that you’re being proactive and taking good care of your teeth, ensuring a healthy smile!

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