What Type of Dental Cleaning Do I Need?

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Gum inflammation in Sugar Land, TX

Understanding the difference between a Prophy and SRP (scaling and root planing) is crucial in maintaining optimal oral health. These dental procedures serve distinct purposes, despite some overlap in their objectives.

Routine Dental Cleanings

A prophy, short for prophylaxis, is a routine dental cleaning performed by a dentist or dental hygienist. Prophy’s are usually recommended every six months and are part of a regular dental check-up. The primary goal of a prophy is preventive care. It involves the removal of plaque, tartar and surface stains from the teeth and gum line. This cleaning procedure is essential in preventing the onset or progression of gingivitis or early-stage gum disease.

During a prophy, Dr. Patel will use special dental instruments, such as ultrasonic and hand scalers, to remove plaque and tartar buildup. Polishing the teeth with a fine or gritty paste will aid in removing surface stains, leaving the teeth smooth and clean. Fluoride treatment may also be applied to help strengthen damaged enamel and provide additional protection against cavities.

Scaling & Root Planing Cleanings

On the other hand, SRP, or scaling and root planing, is a deeper cleaning procedure intended for individuals with more advanced gum disease, specifically periodontitis. Unlike a prophy, an SRP goes one step beyond a prophy and targets the accumulation of tartar and bacteria both above and below the gum line.

Periodontitis (gum disease) occurs when there is a buildup of plaque and tartar leading to inflammation and infection in the gums, causing 4mm or large pockets forming between the teeth and gums. SRP aims to address this issue by scaling, which involves scraping away plaque and tartar from the tooth’s root surfaces and the gum pockets. Root planing follows, smoothing out the root surfaces to discourage bacterial reattachment and facilitate gum tissue healing and reattachment.

SRP is a more involved procedure than a routine prophy and could require local anesthesia to ensure the patient’s comfort during the process. Depending on the severity of the gum disease, it might be performed in sections over multiple appointments to thoroughly clean the affected areas. After the SRP is completed, it is recommended you return every 3-4 months for periodontal maintenance to monitor, manage and prevent periodontal disease from reoccurring.

In summary, a prophy is a preventive cleaning procedure done regularly to maintain oral health and prevent the onset of gum disease, while SRP is a deeper cleaning procedure aimed at treating and managing existing gum disease. Both procedures are essential components of comprehensive dental care, but they serve different purposes based on the patient’s oral health needs.

Regular dental check-ups and cleanings, including prophylaxis and periodontal maintenance, are fundamental for maintaining healthy teeth and gums. However, if gum disease is present, Dr. Patel may recommend an SRP to address the underlying issues and prevent further progression of periodontal disease.

Remember, maintaining good oral hygiene habits at home, such as regular brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash, complements professional dental cleanings and helps ensure a healthy smile for years to come. Our Sugar Land Dental Associates team can be reached by calling 281-207-4161 to schedule an appointment. Dr. Jai V. Patel and Dr. Rahil H. Patel have been helping patients in Sugar Land, Texas, create the healthy smiles they deserve, and look forward to helping you!