The phrase dental cleaning usually refers to the once or twice yearly visit to the dentist to have plaque removed from the surface of your teeth. But there are actually a few different stages of dental cleaning that cover a wider range of oral health needs. Your dentist might combine the stages to offer a comprehensive treatment plan if you're suffering from gingivitis or any other type of periodontal disease.
What are the primary three stages of dental cleaning?
Stage 1: Prophylaxis
Prophylaxis is the general teeth cleaning that's recommended for all patients at least yearly. The dentist will use handheld tools to scrape away tartar and plaque buildups on the surface of your teeth and gums. This process will make you less prone to periodontal disease and recurrent bad breath.
If you've suffered past periodontal disease that caused your gums to pull slightly away from the teeth, your dentist might also clean inside those pockets during the regular cleaning. Small pockets will heal closed on their own over time so the cleaning is a great way to prevent bacteria from taking hold once the gums heal closed.
Stage 2: Full Mouth Debridement
Full mouth debridement, or FMD, is a slightly deeper clean than prophylaxis. The actual cleaning process works the same as a general cleaning but the deeper clean requires more time. You might need a couple of appointments for the dentist to completely finish the debridement. Your gums will be given time to heal from the first cleaning before the second appointment occurs.
A FMD cleaning is often recommended for those who haven't had a general cleaning in a long time or who have a past history of recurrent periodontal disease. The deep clean should then be followed by regular general cleanings to prevent a massive buildup again in the future.
Stage 3: Scaling and Root Planing
Scaling and root planing, or SRP, is the type of cleaning used when you are currently or recently in the throws of periodontal disease. SRP is the final cleaning stage before surgical measures would need to become involved.
During scaling and root planing, your dentist will clean the surface of the teeth in a way similar to a general cleaning but ultrasonic tools are used for a deeper clean. Far more attention is paid to the gums in SRP than with the other cleaning techniques.
If your gums have moderate sized pockets, the SRP procedure can clean them out thoroughly then stitch the tissue back around the base of the tooth for better healing. The surface of the tooth itself might also need to be filed down to remove any embedded bacteria that could spur a reinfection. For more information, talk to a dentist like Family & Cosmetic Dentistry or others to find out what cleanings may be helpful for your oral health.