What is Oral Prophylaxis

Dental hygiene services are centered on the promotion of wellness. In addition to examining patients for the signs and symptoms of serious diseases, dental hygienists provide direct patient services and educate them to follow preventive measures at home. Their services include procedures to prevent periodontal infection and tooth decay.

The focus of dental hygiene services is the oral prophylaxis, sometimes referred to as teeth cleaning. This involves scaling the removal of hard calculus deposits above (supragingival) and below (subgingival) the gum line. These deposits aid the development of the bacterial colonies that cause periodontal (gum) disease, and can cause loose teeth and root decay. Its most significant functions are prevention of dental disease and patient education. It is likely the most important and valuable visit a patient may ever make to the dentist.

It is important to note that supragingival scaling and coronal polishing do not constitute an oral prophylaxis. Since periodontal disease begins below the gum line, scaling must also be done below the gum line. It is negligent for a dental hygienist or dentist to provide a simple polishing and represent it as a thorough oral prophylaxis. Indeed, when performed by untrained personnel, polishing procedures can cause harmful changes in the teeth; remove the outer layer of enamel containing protective fluoride; and damage the tooth structure underneath.

Other dental hygiene services include application of pit and fissure sealants and the application of topical fluorides, both of which protect the surfaces of teeth from decay.

What does Oral Prophylaxis include?

The routine dental cleaning is anything but routine, and should include:

  • Personal oral hygiene evaluation, home care review and recommendations.
  • Tooth brushing and flossing instructions.
  • Supra gingival (above the gum) scaling to remove plaque and tartar from all visible tooth surfaces.
  • Debridement of tartar beneath the gum, as conditions warrant.
  • Topical fluoride treatment to the age of 13.
  • Polishing the teeth.
  • Nutrition assessment, if needed.
  • Periodontal charting and scheduling of additional periodontal care as indicated.

The dental prophylaxis is the cornerstone for a lifetime of dental health.

Teeth Cleanings

Routine professional teeth cleanings can be essential to good dental health. Cleanings keep your teeth healthy and looking fresh. When combined with oral exams and x-rays, cleanings can also identify potential dental problems and treat them before they get worse. Tooth decay, oral pain, and even tooth loss can be prevented with routine teeth cleanings.

Our Staff at Beverly Hills Medical Group will clean your teeth, identify potential problems, and work to keep your teeth healthy and beautiful during this traditional dental treatment. Periodontal (gum) issues are also looked for in teeth cleanings.

One of the most common conditions affecting the mouth is periodontal disease. If the gums aren’t properly taken care of, it can not only lead to tooth loss, but to general health problems as well, including heart disease and stroke.

Periodontal disease is often caused by bacteria that infect the soft tissue of the gums. Early warning signs of periodontal disease may include swollen, inflamed, and bleeding gums. Periodontal disease is a serious dental problem, but with regular checkups and treatment, it can be significantly reduced or entirely prevented.

Ultrasonic and Hand Scaling

Plaque is the colonization of natural oral bacteria on food debris that remains on the surface and in the crevices of the teeth and gums. Combining with minerals in the saliva, it ultimately forms a hard, rough sediment known as dental tartar or calculus, which attracts further plaque buildup. Calculus must be removed by a dental professional for the prevention of periodontal disease.

Removal of calculus may be performed by a licensed dental hygienist or dentist, either by manual scaling of the teeth or with an ultrasonic device. The choice of technique is a personal preference by the hygienist or wishes of the patient. Most states permit trained dental hygienists to administer local anesthetic and nitrous oxide (laughing gas), often necessary for deep periodontal scaling and root planning.

Light or moderate tartar buildup is commonly removed by manual scaling instruments of various shapes and sizes. The hygienists skills are especially important for this procedure.

The ultrasonic scaler, commonly called by the brand name Cavitron, is often indicated for the efficient removal of heavy, tenacious tartar and stains. The hygienist may follow its use with hand scaling for a more finite smoothing of tooth and root surfaces.

Caution is warranted for people who wear pacemakers, as the ultrasonic sounds may interfere with the function of the pacemaker.

Root Planing

Accumulation of plaque causes inflammation of the gums and an ensuing breakdown of the periodontal attachment (the fibrous connection of the teeth to the supporting structures). Pockets between the teeth and soft tissue become deeper and the underlying bone recedes. Increased pocket depth encourages the formation of more calculus, plaque and further tissue breakdown. The ongoing bacterial colonization byproducts perpetuate the disease process.

Root planing is a procedure to treat periodontal conditions (moderate to advanced gum disease) by thoroughly scaling the roots of teeth to establish a smooth, calculus free surface. The process may be performed by a dental hygienist, dentist or periodontist (gum specialist), and usually requires local anesthesia to prevent pain. Thorough periodontal scaling customarily involves several dental visits .

More advanced conditions may necessitate periodontal surgery for complete debridement of the roots and recontouring of the hard and soft tissue to arrest the disease process or to restore, in select situations, lost bone.

Polishing

The dental prophylaxis is refined by a final polishing of the teeth to remove stains and create a sensation of fresh breath and a clean mouth. It may be accomplished by spraying high-pressured water mixed with baking soda paste onto the surface of the teeth (prophy jet polishing), or using a rubber cup and polishing paste. Many states permit a certified dental assistant to polish teeth with a rubber cup and to apply fluoride for children.

Dental Hygiene Appointments

Patients should schedule their recall appointments on a regular basis for the early diagnoses of dental disease. The hygienist or dentist may recommend a prophylaxis visit every two to six months. Even if your dental insurance plan only covers the procedure twice a year, its money well spent. Recall frequency depends on many factors and should be determined on an individual basis. Some people tend to have more buildup of calculus than others and some may be more prone to periodontal inflammation or the development of tooth decay. Patients with inadequate oral hygiene practices will require more frequent cleanings.

Dental Cleaning for Children

The dental prophylaxis is especially important for children to establish good oral hygiene practice and to appreciate the importance of dental health. Easy dental prophy appointments help create self-esteem and will lessen anxiety should dental restorative care become necessary in the future.

The regular application of topical fluoride, early detection of orthodontic (bite) problems, and an evaluation for pit and fissure sealants are part of preventive dental health.