Perhaps you’re wondering what a prophy is? A prophy is short for prophylaxis, and prophylaxis is the professional term for a dental cleaning. So what is a prophylaxis and why get them? Professional dental cleanings are a preventive measure intended to help keep you from developing periodontal disease. Not only is periodontal disease the major cause of tooth loss, it has been linked to several other chronic systemic diseases including heart disease and stroke. So professional cleanings should be taken seriously, and yes, you get a trophy for attending your prophy.
Prophylaxis means to “ward off” disease. Diseased gums can lead to more serious illnesses throughout your body, but at the very least, they can lead to edentulism (being toothless). Periodontal disease develops in stages, and attending your dental cleanings twice yearly helps keep the disease at bay. The first stage is gingivitis which is the buildup of bacterial plaque around your gum tissue which causes irritation and inflammation. Red, swollen, bleeding gums are symptoms of gingivitis. If the plaque is not removed it hardens or calcifies into tartar or calculus, a cement-like material. When this happens it can only be removed by a professional dental cleaning with specialized dental tools. If the calculus is not removed it can progress underneath the gumline causing periodontal disease and eventual tooth loss.
The main goal of a professional cleaning is to remove plaque and tartar buildup to prevent gingivitis and periodontitis. This is done using either a manual dental tool called a scaler, or an ultrasonic (electric) scaler. Once the plaque and tartar have been removed a planer is used to smooth nicks and crannies in your teeth. Bacteria can attach and grow in any crevice so a smooth surface is harder for bacterial plaque to adhere to. Most people enjoy the next step and it tastes good too–polishing with a flavored prophylaxis paste. The reason the polishing paste is gritty is to make your teeth even smoother and shinier. The next step is to floss and the final step is a fluoride treatment to help rebuild the enamel and strengthen your teeth. Every step of a professional cleaning is to remove harmful bacteria and to make it harder for them to adhere to your teeth and cause decay, gingivitis, or periodontitis.
About your Des Moines Dentist
The Gateway Dental Group provides comprehensive dental treatments including general, cosmetic, and restorative dentistry. As a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, Dr. Burds also has extensive experience helping his patients suffering from sleep disorders obtain restful sleep via oral appliance therapy. You can contact Dr. Stephen J. Burds office at 515-442-5659. We welcome patients from River Bend, Kirkwood Glen, East Village, and neighboring communities.