A standard teeth cleaning is called a prophylaxis, or prophy for short. Some people may not be candidates for a simple cleaning, due either to inflammation or infection of the gums, called periodontal disease, or severe build-up of plaque and tartar on their teeth. (For more information about deeper cleanings, please see Periodontal Services.)
During a prophy, the hygienist will first clean off any areas of tartar in a process called scaling. We use a type of instrument called a Cavitron Jet Plus. It uses ultrasonic technology to remove tartar and heavy debris from the tooth’s surfaces and from under the gums. Next, in a process called fine scaling, any remaining calculus is gently scraped off by hand using curved metal instruments, called scalers or curettes. The hygienist will typically floss your teeth, to help clean off any plaque that is trapped between your teeth and better visualize any calculus. Once all the calculus has been removed through scaling, the hygienist will then polish your teeth. This process serves to clean any plaque off your teeth and also remove light stains. A slightly gritty paste is applied to your teeth and a tool is used to gently buff the plaque off of the tooth surfaces. Because we emphasize education and prevention, the hygienist may review proper brushing and flossing techniques with you. If she notices areas that appear to be missed when brushing, she will show those to you as well.