Many patients would like to know the difference between a dental prophylaxis (or prophy) and a deep cleaning. Let us explain:
A prophy is the removal of plaque, stains, and tartar on any patient who does not have periodontal disease. This means that there has been no bone loss, no detachment of the gum from the root, and pocket depths of no more than 3 millimeters. There may be some gum bleeding (gingivitis), but there has been no permanent loss of any supporting tissues of the teeth. Gingivitis is completely reversible if the causative factors are removed (ie. plaque and tartar). A prophy is considered to be a preventative procedure, not a treatment procedure. It generally takes from 15 to 30 minutes and it includes scaling and tooth polishing.
Deep cleaning is the removal of plaque, stains, tartar on any patient who has periodontal disease. There will generally be some amount of bone loss, some gum detachment, gum bleeding and/or infection, calculus below the gum line and pocket depths of at least 4 millimeters. The procedure generally takes 45 minutes to an hour per quadrant (one-quarter of the mouth) and often requires local anesthetic to allow for more comfortable debridement. This is a treatment procedure in that we are trying to arrest disease that has already happened. While the disease can be eliminated, any bone loss or gum recession that has already occurred is permanent.
Deep cleaning needs to be followed up with periodontal maintenance therapy, usually every three months. This is to prevent a recurrence of the disease, to treat areas that have not healed adequately, and to determine if referral to a specialist (periodontist) is warranted. Maintenance therapy is different from a prophy. It takes longer because there are more root surfaces to clean and we usually take the time to measure pocket depths to monitor disease progression. This generally takes about 45 minutes to treat the entire mouth and can often be done comfortably with topical anesthetic alone.
Perhaps now you can understand why it is difficult for us to tell you how much a “cleaning” will cost before Dr. Goodfellow examines you. IT DEPENDS!
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