A dental cleaning is a professional cleaning by a dentist or registered dental hygienist. A routine cleaning is called a prophylaxis (prophy) and takes between 45 to 60 minutes. The frequency of a prophy is personalized for each patient based upon their needs and is usually every 3, 4, or 6 months. Routine hygiene visits prevent excess plaque and tarter build-up, which if left untreated can lead to unhealthy gums and tooth decay. These cleanings usually involve scaling around each tooth to remove plaque and tarter, polishing, flossing, and oral hygiene instructions.
Dental hygienists traditionally perform tooth scaling by hand or with ultrasonic scalers. This sophisticated tool allows dental cleanings to be performed more efficiently and in less time. To achieve the best results, both ultrasonic and manual tooth scaling techniques may be used for a cleaning.
For patients who have bone loss around their teeth, deeper periodontal pockets exist and more than a routine prophylaxis is required. See Gum Treatment.