What’s a Professional Cleaning?

Some people think they do such a good job of brushing their teeth at home that they don’t need “professional” cleaning. While it is absolutely true that good dental hygiene is a partnership between you and your dentist, it’s absolutely false that you don’t need professional cleanings in addition to home hygiene.

Prophylaxis, that’s the fancy term for these cleanings. Here’s why you need to see Dr. Fong and our team for professional cleanings and oral exams twice yearly.

Why you need it

Professional cleaning removes plaque, calculus (tartar), and stains from the teeth. Why can’t you do this at home? While you can, and do need to, remove plaque with your home hygiene, it is almost impossible to remove it all. What you don’t/can’t get at slowly turns into tartar. This is the hard, light-colored stuff that builds up particularly on the inner bottom teeth. No matter how well you brush or floss, once tartar has taken hold it can only be removed by a professional hygienist or dentist. That’s what those beloved dental picks are for.

What’s the big deal with a little tartar? you say. Once formed, tartar keeps growing because brushing doesn’t remove it. If you let it keep expanding, it will eventually begin to expand down under the gumline, causing irritation. This irritation is called gingivitis and is the precursor of gum disease.

What a prophylaxis does that you can’t do

A prophylaxis is a scaling and polishing procedure that removes normal plaque buildup, calculus, and stains. What’s scaling? That’s where our hygienists chip away the layer of tartar that has formed in your usual spots in your mouth. Various picks have different characteristics that help the hygienist break the grip of the tartar.

Once the tartar is removed, the teeth are professionally polished with mechanical polishing machines. We utilize a special paste with more grit than typical toothpaste that helps remove stains and polishes the teeth. This polishing also makes the tooth surfaces smoother and more difficult for plaque and debris to adhere to, at least for a couple days.

Why twice a year?

People wonder why the timeframe for these cleanings and exams is twice a year. It’s not just arbitrary — six months is the time it takes for tartar to take hold in your usual build-up locations. And once it builds up it needs to be removed.

And don’t forget about the exam

Beyond our professional cleanings described above, Dr. Fong and your hygienist also perform an oral exam. This is when we pull on your tongue, push on your lymph nodes in your neck, and other stuff like that. We’re looking for anything out of the ordinary, especially early signs of oral cancer. That’s another reason we want to see you in our beautiful Santa Ana offices every six months — if oral cancer is caught early it is very easy to successfully treat. Not so if it is allowed to develop.

Is it time for your next professional cleaning and exam with Dr. Fong? Call us at (714) 549-1903 to make your appointment.

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