"Why Can't I Get My Regular Cleaning?"

Blog Post

This is a question we often get.

Dental hygiene is an essential component of maintaining optimal oral health. Regular dental cleanings and exams can help prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health issues. However, there are times when a more thorough cleaning is needed, such as when scaling and root planing is diagnosed. In these cases, a regular prophylaxis (prophy) cleaning cannot be done.


Here's why:

Firstly, let's define what scaling and root planing (SRP) is. It is a deep cleaning procedure used to treat periodontal disease, which is an infection of the gums caused by bacteria in dental plaque. Scaling involves removing the plaque and tartar buildup from the surface of the teeth, while root planing involves smoothing the surface of the tooth roots to remove bacteria and prevent further buildup.


Prophy, on the other hand, is a preventive dental cleaning that is typically done on patients with healthy gums and no signs of gum disease. It involves cleaning the teeth above the gum line, only on the visible surface of the teeth, and polishing them to remove any stains or discoloration. It is typically done during routine dental cleanings and exams.


When scaling and root planing is diagnosed, it means that there is a significant amount of plaque and bacteria buildup below the gum line. This requires a more thorough cleaning approach than a prophy cleaning. Performing a prophy cleaning in this case would not be effective because it would only clean the visible surfaces of the teeth and not address the underlying infection. 


In fact, attempting to do a prophy cleaning during scaling and root planing can even be harmful. It can disrupt the healing process and cause unnecessary trauma to the gums, leading to further infection and inflammation. It can also make it more difficult for the hygienist to properly perform the scaling and root planing procedure, as the additional cleaning can make it harder to see and access the areas that need to be treated.


If gum disease is left untreated, it can progress and lead to serious consequences such as gum recession, tooth loss, and even bone loss in the jaw. Therefore, if your dentist has diagnosed scaling and root planing, it is important to have the procedure done to prevent further damage to your oral health


In conclusion, while prophy cleanings are an essential part of maintaining good oral health, the two procedures require different instruments, have different treatment goals, and require different amounts of time and attention. If you have signs of gum disease such as bleeding gums, bad breath, or loose teeth, scaling and root planing may be necessary to remove the buildup of plaque and tartar below the gum line and help restore your oral health. By following your dentist’s recommendations and allowing them to focus on the SRP procedure, you can ensure the best possible outcome for your oral health.