Let’s be honest, some people will not bother seeing their dentist or dental hygienist until something is wrong with their oral health. If it’s been a while since you scheduled a standard preventive care appointment, there are good reasons to consider dental prophylaxis. This is a basic procedure where we clean your teeth thoroughly and inspect your overall oral wellbeing to unveil and address potential issues. At Washington Dental, we offer an unrivaled quality of curative and preventative dental care in Los Angeles, Lomita, Torrance, and Carson, CA. We have a seasoned team expertly trained to provide a range of dental treatments that prevent or halt the progress of common dental concerns, including gingivitis and periodontal disease.

Good dental hygiene practices are unfortunately not enough to maintain that perfect smile. This makes it imperative to schedule routine dental cleaning (dental prophylaxis) bi-annually.

What is Dental Prophylaxis?

A dental prophylaxis is an effective preventative procedure designed to help manage dental issues and maintain good oral health. This professional cleaning approach removes plaque build-up in hard to reach areas.

It helps to prevent common dental issues, which include:

Periodontal Disease and Gingivitis

Gum disease occurs when bacteria colonize the gingival (gum) tissue. When bacteria buildup goes without addressing, it can lead to severe inflammation and irritation of tissues below or above the gum line. In return, the body responds to the inflammation by systematically destroying the affected gum and bone tissues.

One of the main signs of periodontal disease is deeper pockets between the teeth and gums. These pockets harbor bacteria capable of traveling through a patient’s bloodstream and causing other serious health issues that may not seem directly connected to oral health issues. Periodontal disease is also notorious for making the teeth loose, allowing them to shift or even fall out entirely.

Plaque and Tartar

Plaque is an invisible film made of a sticky substance. It occurs when food particles and saliva mix in the mouth. While this substance is generally harmless, it can lead to serious oral health concerns if you fail to brush and floss each day properly.

Dental plaque is easy to remove if you brush and floss your teeth when it’s still soft. If allowed to harden, it becomes tartar, which is challenging to remove without a professional dental hygienist’s services.

Plaque and tartar can cause a range of oral health issues, including:

  • Receding gums (periodontal disease)
  • Bad breath
  • Tooth decay
  • Tooth loss

Tooth Decay and Cavities

Dental prophylaxis can also help to prevent cavities. These are holes that permanently damage the hard surface of the teeth. Cavities form when oral bacteria produce acids that gradually eat into the tooth’s layers, starting with the enamel. As the decay process goes deeper and reaches the pulp, patients experience extreme pain, making it necessary to seek dental treatments, including tooth extraction.

At-home dental care regimes are effective, but only to a limited level. There are particular dental concerns that you can prevent only by visiting your dentist regularly. During checkups, we can spot and address dental problems way before they begin causing pain or showing other signs and symptoms.

Benefits of Prophylaxis/Teeth Cleaning

Generally, dental prophylaxis is a necessary procedure in promoting good oral health. It helps to protect the gums and teeth from bacteria causing infections and inflammation.

Some of the top benefits of the procedure include:

Prevention of Common Dental Issues

A dental prophylaxis is a vital part of preventative dental care. While proper brushing and flossing methods can prevent tooth decay and gum disease, concerns can arise because of bacteria that accumulates around hard to reach areas. Through dental prophylaxis, harmful bacteria are removed, arresting the development or advancement of dental issues.       

Better, Healthier Smile

Prophylaxis does more than just remove plaque, tartar, and other harmful bacteria from your mouth. It also helps to remove unappealing stains that may cause dental discoloration. Whiter and brighter teeth can give you a beautiful and healthier looking smile.                                                                                                                                                                

Fresher Breath

Halitosis (persistent bad breath) is one of the primary signs of periodontal disease. This is a concern caused by a blend of dental health issues, including gum infections, rotting food, and tartar. Fortunately, prophylaxis can remove calculus, bacteria, and plaque, effectively treating halitosis. Right after an appointment, you will notice that your breath is fresher and remains so for longer.

Identification of Other Health Concerns

Did you know that your oral health is a window to your overall health?

During a prophylaxis appointment, we do a thorough examination of your entire oral health, and this also allows us to identify signs of other medical issues, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Alzheimer's disease

Steps of a Prophylaxis Treatment Procedure

Prophylaxis treatment involves a whole range of services designed to prevent and identify oral issues. It is crucial to understand that this is a preventative treatment that aims at stopping oral problems instead of curing or treating them. Some of the services offered during the appointment include:

  • Dental examination
  • X-ray (bitewing radiograph)
  • Cleaning
  • Root planing or scaling
  • Dental polishing
  • Fluoride treatments

The set of services offered provides comprehensive benefits to the functions and appearance of the teeth. While bitewing radiographs help identify cavities and tooth decay, cleaning removes calculus, plaque, and tartar. A treatment will leave you with a cleaner, healthier, and more aesthetically appealing smile.

Here are the steps involved during a procedure:

Step 1 — Oral Examination

An Oral examination can be performed on an awake or anesthetized patient. The dentist will closely examine each tooth for signs of decay and other conditions that may call for restorative work like crowns and fillings. Apart from physical exams, a hygienist may also use x-rays to diagnose cavities and gum issues.

You can also expect a periodontal evaluation where your hygienist will check for periodontal disease signs such as redness, swelling, and bleeding. Disease screening is also performed during oral examinations. Sessions involve inspecting the tongue, lips, neck, face, gums, and throat for anomalies that signify other health problems such as oral cancer or diabetes, among other diseases.

Step 2 — Supragingival Cleaning

Supragingival cleaning is a procedure that removes calculus and plaque from the surface of the teeth. It effectively eliminates colonies of bacteria that cause tooth decay, bad breath, and other dental issues. During this phase of treatment, a dentist may use a range of scaling hand tools to get to hard-to-reach areas, including the gum line.

Step 3 — Periodontal probing and Subgingival Cleaning

Patients with periodontal disease require subgingival cleaning. Unlike supragingival cleaning that mainly focuses on the tooth’s surface, this procedure primarily targets the gum pockets beneath the gum line. A skilled hygienist will remove dead tissue, calculus, and plaque below the gingival margin to arrest periodontal disease progression.

Step 4 — Polishing and Irrigation

At this point, your gums and teeth are clean, but your appointment is far from over. The hygienist also needs to smooth out any surface defects because they are notorious for hiding plague. Dental irrigation removes polishing paste residue and flushes out any remaining plaque or dead tissue from the gingival pockets and sulcus.

Step 5 — Fluoride Treatment

Fluoride treatments are vital for building and maintaining strong enamel. The enamel is the top-most layer of the tooth exposed to food, bacteria, and plaque, which can cause gradual demineralization (eroding and weakening of the enamel). Fortunately, the saliva in the mouth fights demineralization, generally keeping the enamel and entire tooth in an excellent state.

Even with proper oral hygiene practices, it is not possible to wholly stop demineralization. Fluoride treatments promote remineralization, ensuring that the enamel remains strong enough to resist breaking and cracking. These treatments also fight the acids in plaque, preventing them from eating into the enamel.

Step 6 —Post-Cleaning Examination

Before you can call it a day, your dentist will take things over from your dental hygienist. The expert will examine your mouth once more and record essential findings in your oral chart. This could include information about gum health, oral lesions, loose, missing, and fractured teeth, and even teeth discoloration. The report generated will help provide the best oral care recommendations.

Step 7 — Oral Care Recommendations

The whole idea of seeking prophylaxis treatment is to optimize your overall dental health. This makes it crucial for you to seek timely treatment of any dental abnormalities unveiled during the sessions. Apart from providing directives on how to enhance your home oral health regime, your dentist may also recommend treatments like:

  • Routine periodontal probing checks
  • Tooth extraction
  • Vital pulpotomy or root canal
  • Restorative dentistry and more

What to Expect During Prophylaxis Treatment

Prophylaxis treatment appointments will typically not take more than an hour. Most patients don’t experience any discomfort during the sessions. Some patients even claim to enjoy each step of the procedure.

First-timers or patients who have not had their teeth cleaned in a while may experience minimal distress that can be addressed using a topical numbing gel. If you feel extremely anxious, your dentist will inform you about anesthetic options to make you more comfortable during treatment.

It is common for patients with irritated or inflamed gums to feel sore or bleed slightly during treatment. Even so, the experience is still bearable, and using anesthetics and numbing gels is often not necessary.

When And What to Eat After Prophylaxis Treatment

​Right after your bi-annual prophylaxis treatment, the first question you are likely to ask your dentist is how soon you can have your favorite meal. If you are like most people, you will avoid eating hours before the appointment to prevent feeling nauseated during the procedure. At the same time, you will dread undoing the cleaning job by eating too soon or consuming the wrong foods or drinks.

It is best to seek your dentist’s views about how soon you should eat and what to avoid. Generally, the rules that apply are as follows:

Choose Soft Foods

Contrary to popular belief, you can eat right after your appointment. No waiting time is necessary, although you may not feel like eating because of teeth and gum sensitivity.

One way to go around the expected sensitivity is to avoid foods and drinks that are too hot or too cold because they may feel overly intense on the freshly treated teeth. It is also best to avoid foods and beverages that are crunchy, spicy, sticky, or saturated with citruses.

Typically, the gum and teeth sensitivity will go away within several hours, allowing you to consume what you like. If you must eat right after the appointment, some of the best food choices include:

  • Soups
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Applesauce
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Yogurt
  • Soft fruits like bananas, etc.

Wait a While After Fluoride Treatments

Fluoride treatments are often a crucial part of dental prophylaxis and are only skipped in exceptional circumstances. They help to strengthen the enamel and prevent tooth decay while speeding up repairs caused by demineralization.

If you have had a fluoride treatment, you should wait for at least 30 minutes after a procedure to eat or drink anything. The idea is to allow the sealant to do its job and seal areas around the teeth.

Stay Hydrated

As you take care of your stomach affairs, don’t forget to take plenty of water. Avoid sugary foods and drinks because they cause acids that are harsh on freshly cleaned teeth. Instead of taking citric beverages or sodas, the best liquid to consume is plain water.

Note that the above rules only apply after regular dental cleaning procedures (prophylaxis treatments).  They may not be recommended after intensive therapies such as deep cleaning or periodontal maintenance. Again, your dentist will be happy to shape the personalized tips, depending on a range of factors, including the type of treatment you receive.

Is Dental Prophylaxis Necessary? What Is The Recommended Frequency For Treatment?

If you follow an effective dental care regime that involves brushing and flossing your teeth twice daily, you may wonder whether a prophylaxis treatment is necessary.

Well, this is a preventative procedure designed to arrest the need for curative dental treatments. During an appointment, your hygienist will also do a thorough oral examination to unveil hidden problems that are still painless or in their early stages. Prophylaxis treatments are necessary because they help to prevent, identify and manage oral health issues.

Like most dental services, the right frequency for prophylaxis treatments may differ from one patient to another. If you enjoy relatively good oral health, then two appointments yearly are okay. However, more frequent appointments are necessary for patients with teeth and gum concerns.

We will help you figure out an ideal frequency for appointments. Bear in mind that health issues such as diabetes may make it necessary to schedule 3 to 4 treatment sessions yearly. Our team is skilled, dedicated, and compassionate and will make you feel comfortable during each session, irrespective of whether you need consultation, treatment, or follow-ups. We pride ourselves in helping our patients keep track of their oral health and generally optimize their smiles.

Different Types of Dental Cleanings and How They Relate To Dental Prophylaxis

Teeth cleaning treatments offer an excellent way of maintaining a healthy smile. Irrespective of the kind of treatment you need, your hygienist will do an oral exam of your teeth and the supporting structures, including the gums and jaws. Routine treatments and checkups help identify issues in their early stages and treat them before they go from bad to worse.

Various dental cleaning procedures may have specific shared goals. However, they will also not lack certain aspects that make them as different as day and night. Understanding these differences can help you determine the procedure that is ideal for your unique concerns.

Prophylaxis Cleaning (Regular Dental Cleaning)

The health of your gums and teeth is closely related to your overall well-being. Seeking standard preventative care treatments like regular dental cleaning is crucial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. “Prophylaxis” is derived from the Greek word “phylax,” which means “guarding.” This is a procedure designed to prevent and lower the risk of a range of oral concerns, including tooth decay and gum disease.

If you practice good oral hygiene and even visit your dentist two times each year for routine checkups, the chances are that you need prophylaxis cleaning. This is the most primary dental cleaning treatment, ideal for individuals with generally good dental health. When addressing severe dental concerns like gum disease, your dentist may recommend scheduling for more than two prophylaxis treatments yearly.

During treatment, we clean out the plaque and tartar from the teeth and in between them. We will also examine your mouth, tongue, gums, lips, and throat to unveil potential issues of concern.

Some of the unique facts about prophylaxis cleaning are as follows:

  • Treatment is mainly ideal for patients with healthy teeth and gums.
  • It offers preventative, not curative care.
  • Regular cleaning removes plaque, tartar, and stains.

Scaling and Root Planing (Deep Cleaning)

Deep cleaning (scaling and root planing) is different from regular dental cleaning (prophylaxis treatments). Unlike prophylaxis treatments, which are best for patients with generally good oral health, scaling and root planing offer practical solutions for patients with gum diseases such as periodontitis or gingivitis.

The first step during treatment is scaling, and it involves plaque and tartar removal. A skilled hygienist will target the surface of the teeth and the gum pockets below your gum line. Planing is smoothing out of the root surface. This is a necessary procedure that speeds up the process of the gums reattaching to the teeth.

One of the critical differences between Prophylaxis and deep cleaning is that the former is often painless, and patients don’t experience much discomfort. The latter usually requires the administration of a local anesthetic. While regular cleaning takes an hour or less, a deep cleaning procedure may call for multiple dental appointments.

A few facts to remember about scaling and root planing include:

  • Treatment is best for patients with gingivitis and periodontitis.
  • It targets gum pockets located below the gum line.
  • The procedure is curative, and it accelerates the reattaching of gums to the teeth.

Periodontal Maintenance

The effects of periodontitis are irreversible. To prevent the disease from progressing and hopefully save your teeth from falling out, you need to schedule for periodontal maintenance.

Like prophylaxis treatments, this is also a dental cleaning procedure, although it is done more frequently. We recommend that periodontitis patients get into a continuing treatment plan that involves scheduling periodontal maintenance sessions until gum disease symptoms are eliminated or under control.

Key points to remember about periodontal maintenance include:

  • Treatment arrests the buildup of bacteria causing gum disease.
  • Mainly ideal for patients diagnosed with periodontitis.
  • The recommended frequency is after every 3 to 4 months.

Gross Debridement

Sometimes, prophylaxis cleaning is not enough. If it’s been years since you scheduled for dental checkups and teeth cleanings, gross debridement may be a better alternative to regular dental cleaning. This procedure involves the use of special tools that can safely remove hardened plaque. After seeking gross debridement, a patient can now schedule for prophylaxis cleaning twice yearly.

Here are crucial facts about gross debridement:

  • It is ideal for patients who have not had their teeth professionally cleaned in a while
  • Helps to remove thick, hardened plaque and tartar
  • After treatment, patients can proceed to seek prophylaxis cleaning after every six months.

As aforementioned, various dental cleaning procedures may leave your breath fresher and your teeth cleaner, but they are performed for different reasons while following incomparable steps. Depending on the overall state of your teeth and gums, your dentist may recommend scaling and root planing or periodontal maintenance instead of prophylaxis cleaning. During a consultation, we will help you understand the procedure you require and why.

Find a Los Angeles Dentist Near Me

If you need dental prophylaxis or other dental cleaning procedures, turn to Washington Dental today. We take necessary measures to monitor and improve the overall oral health of our patients. Our skilled team uses the best diagnostic techniques and equipment to understand dental problems from their roots before recommending the best treatment plans. We deliver top-quality general dentistry services in Lomita, Carson, Torrance, and the entire Los Angeles County, California. Our comprehensive dental service menu consists of both curative dental treatments and preventative care procedures like dental prophylaxis. To schedule for treatment or consultation, call us or visit our clinics. Let’s partner with you in maintaining a lifetime of healthy smiles!