In dental terminology, a regular cleaning is a prophylaxis, and is done to prevent dental problems, such as gum disease and bone loss.  It involves the removal of plaque, calculus, and stains from the tooth surfaces.  This procedure is effective for tooth structures that have not been affected by bone loss, periodontal disease or infection.

Dental instruments that scrape away deposits of plaque and tartar from the teeth are used.  These may be manual or an electric device, called an ultra-sonic or sonic scaler.  It is typically done on the crowns (the visible part of the teeth).  Dentists recommend having this done every six months, besides following through with a daily oral hygiene regimen of brushing and flossing.

If the patient is your child, it’s important to prepare them by explaining how important good dental health is, and promising a fun day to pick out a new toothbrush or reading a book to them about going to the dentist.  It’s also important that you don’t project any fear of the dentist you may have onto the child.  A cleaning during a child’s first dental visit is not usually done unless there are signs of decay, stains, or a buildup of plaque and tartar.  These are some tips for successful home care:

  • Toddlers:  As teeth begin to emerge, clean them often with a damp cloth.
  • Two-year-olds:  When old enough to know how to spit out the toothpaste, use a soft toothbrush and a smidgen of toothpaste to brush their teeth. To avoid tooth decay, never give a child a bottle of milk, sweet liquids, or juice at night time, because it pools around the teeth causing a rapid increase in decay.
  • Six-year-olds:  With supervision, a child should be able to brush their own teeth.  The amount of sugar that you’re giving the child should be restricted, for instance, water instead of sugary drinks like cola and juices.
  • Mouthwash:  Available in good-tasting flavors for children.  Can find places missed in brushing (some are designed for the child to see particles when they spit it out).

The next level of dental cleaning is deep cleaning – what is called professional scaling and root planing (SRP).  It is a non-surgical cleaning to treat gum disease before it becomes a serious problem.  In this procedure any tartar accumulation between gums and teeth, and on the tooth roots, is gently scraped away.  Root surfaces are also smoothed (planed) so the gum tissue can better reattach to the tooth.  These are some warning signs you may need SRP:

  • Your gums bleed when you floss or brush your teeth
  • Red, puffy gums
  • Tartar has created little pockets between your teeth and gums that house dangerous bacteria
  • Your gums are beginning to pull away from your teeth
  • Your teeth are becoming loose or falling out
  • You may be struggling with bad breath despite your best efforts

If you have had scaling and root planing, or even gum surgery, a general cleaning may no longer be enough. Then periodontal maintenance may be recommended. It’s a follow-up cleaning that helps to keep gum disease away. A periodontal maintenance program helps disrupt the growth of the bacteria that causes gum disease, and it should be done every three to four months.

If you are interested in dental cleaning: prophylaxis: adult & child in Costa Rica, fill out the “Find a Dentist” form on this page.  One of our patient advocates will reply to your needs.