Oral Prophylaxis is a procedure done for teeth cleaning. It removes tartar and plaque build-up from the surfaces of the teeth as well as those hidden in between and under the gums. The dentist uses a scaler, a type of hand instrument, to remove the plaque and tartar.

Nowadays, ultrasonic – powered scalers are more commonly used for their efficiency. Ultrasonic scalers work by producing tickling vibrations to gently remove the thicker and larger tartar deposits while spraying a cooling mist of water to wash away the blood and debris from the cleaned area. Coffee and cigarette stains can also be removed during oral prophylaxis. After cleaning all the teeth, the dentist will then polish them using a polishing paste and a small brush attached to a slow-rotating hand piece which will be ran throughout and around the teeth to make them smooth and shiny.

Why should you undergo oral prophylaxis?

Sometimes, even after brushing our teeth, we can still feel rough areas that cannot be removed even with another rigorous round of brushing or even after fiddling with a toothpick. These rough areas on the tooth surfaces can be plaque or tartar. If plaque or tartar is left on the teeth, it can provide an environment for bacteria to thrive due to its resilient nature. The bacteria in the plaque can cause serious inflammation and irritation to the gums, therefore making the gums more reddish than normal and bleeding can also be observed.  These signs point to the early stage of gum disease called gingivitis. If you notice signs of gingivitis, you should visit your dentist for an oral prophylaxis.

What are the benefits of having an Oral Prophylaxis?

1. Prevents Tooth Decay. Plaque is the leading cause of tooth decay. It is an acidic substance that eats away the enamel of the tooth.  If plaque is left to build up on your teeth, it can lead to cavities.

2. Prevents Gum Disease. Build up of plaque on your teeth also may lead to gum disease.  Periodontal or Gum Disease is the major cause of tooth loss in adults. As gum disease progresses in your mouth, plaque invades the supporting jaw bone which causes your teeth to loosen and eventually fall out.

3. Prevents Bad Breath. Oral prophylaxis and good oral hygiene work hand in hand to prevent persistent bad breath.  An Oral Prophylaxis, in addition to brushing and flossing, keeps your mouth healthy and odor-free.

4. Removes Extrinsic Stains. An Oral Prophylaxis also removes stains caused by drinking coffee, tea, wine or smoking tobacco.  This is the reason why your teeth looks whiter after having your dental cleaning with your dentist.

5. Lowers Risk for Diseases. Keeping your teeth clean and healthy with good oral hygiene and regular dental cleaning can help lower your risk for some diseases. As established in medical studies, there is a strong link between oral health and the development of systemic diseases which can develop from the accumulation of bacteria in your mouth.

6. Early detection of Diseases. It has also been established in studies that your mouth is a window of your overall health.  Hence, your dentist may actually be the first healthcare provider that will be able to detect signs and symptoms of medical conditions that are manifested in your oral cavity during a routine oral exam.

7. Financial Savings. Keeping your teeth healthy through good oral hygiene and regular Oral Prophylaxis is, in the long run, cheaper to maintain compared to the cost of treating serious dental problems brought about by poor oral hygiene.

How often do I need to have an Oral Prophylaxis?

Oral prophylaxis is recommended to be done twice a year as a preventive measure, but should be performed every 3-4 months for patients with more severe periodontal disease. For patients who have braces or other orthodontic appliances, oral prophylaxis is recommended to be done more frequently.  Oral prophylaxis is applicable for all ages to help fight tooth decay and gum disease. It is important to keep the oral cavity healthy thus daily oral hygiene practices, like tooth brushing and flossing, should still be done. Regular visits to your dentist can also help you maintain a good oral health.

WRITTEN BY: DR. ANGELEI OUANO | EDITED BY: DR. RICHELLE RAMIREZ

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