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There are three main types of dental cleanings: Prophylaxis cleaning, periodontal maintenance cleaning, scaling and root planing (deep cleaning)​​

Prophylaxis Cleaning

A prophylaxis cleaning is a teeth cleaning procedure that is mainly used on individuals with an overall healthy mouth. A prophylaxis cleaning is designed to perform routine maintenance, such as removing an expected amount of tartar and plaque from the surface of teeth, gums and in between teeth.

For those who visit the dentist regularly and practice good oral hygiene, a prophylaxis cleaning is likely to be the recommended teeth cleaning procedure. Although those who receive a prophylaxis teeth cleaning generally have a fairly healthy mouth to start with, it can help individuals remove unwanted plaque and any minor stains that exist on the surface of the teeth.

Periodontal Maintenance

Once you have completed a procedure like scaling and root planing or even gum surgery, a prophylaxis may no longer be enough. So dentists or periodontists recommend periodontal maintenance. It is a follow-up cleaning that helps to keep gum disease away.

Other things to keep in mind about a periodontal maintenance are:

  • It helps disrupt the growth of the bacteria that causes gum disease

  • It is suggested for people who have had scaling and root planing or gum surgery

  • It generally includes frequent visits (every 3-4 months) to the dentist to clean the entire area of the mouth. 

Scaling and Root Planing (Deep Cleaning)

Scaling and root planing is a slightly more invasive teeth cleaning procedure (although it is non-surgical) that involves a deep cleaning of the gums, gum line and other supporting structures of teeth.

Scaling and root planing is often recommended for individuals who suffer from gum diseases such as gingivitis or periodontitis. Since scaling and root planing involves smoothing out the surface of the tooth root and removing any tartar and plaque that exists, it can at times take multiple dental visits to complete.

What is the difference between plaque and calculus (tartar)?

Plaque is soft and can be removed with something as simple as a toothbrush or floss.  Calculus is what soft plaque turns into if left on the tooth surface.  As plaque sits on the teeth it will begin to absorb minerals from the saliva and crystallize into calculus, commonly referred to as tartar.  Calculus can not be removed by brushing and flossing.  Your hygienist uses hand instruments called scalers to remove calculus.  It only takes 24 hours for calculus to start to form, and the longer it stays on the teeth the harder it is to remove.  If it adheres firmly to the surfaces of your teeth you may require a different dental procedure to clean your teeth. 

Does Teeth Cleaning Make Your Teeth Whiter? 


The answer depends. If your teeth are covered in a thick layer of plaque and tartar, then the answer is yes, your teeth will look whiter. Teeth cleaning removes the gunk and reveals the natural color of your teeth. If, however, your teeth are stained, then this will continue to affect their whiteness. Only whitening treatments can help to make your smile more brilliant.

Can deep cleanings make teeth loose?

Deep cleanings do not remove the tooth’s attachment to the gum and bone.

In some cases, heavy accumulation of hard tartar buildup splints teeth together.  This can mask the amount of bone loss and give a false impression of stability.  When we remove that buildup, it can expose the looseness that is already present.

Thus, the teeth can feel loose after a deep cleaning.  But they are not loosened by the deep cleaning itself.

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