A cleaning, or dental prophylaxis, is a thorough scraping of your teeth done by a dental professional. Special instruments that are uniquely sharpened and curved to fit in and around the teeth are used to safely remove build up on the teeth. Build up on the teeth, or plaque, is a result of bacteria and food debris that accumulate on the surfaces of the teeth. Our mouths are full of millions of bacteria, with a healthy diet and good oral hygiene we are able to minimize the build up of bacteria and keep the bad bacteria from over growing on the teeth.
A dental exam is when the dentist checks all of the teeth and mouth for any signs of unhealthy gums, abnormal growths of the tissue, active infections, and cavities. The dentist uses specialized instruments to check the teeth for cavities or weakened areas of the tooth due to bacterial breakdown. They look and feel for abnormal growths or discolorations of the gums, tongue and oral mucosa in an oral cancer screening.
Professional cleaning of your teeth are recommended for healthy mouths every 6 months because the bacteria in the mouths, oral flora, grow exponentially and cover all surfaces of the mouth. Regular brushing, flossing and mouth rinses control the growth of the bacteria and minimize the growth of bad bacteria. However, even the best oral home-care can not get in between or around the teeth like the professional dental cleaning instruments can. After approximately 6 months with regular home care, the bacterial colonies have covered all surfaces of the tooth and brushing only removes superficial layers. It is for that reason that cleanings are recommended every 6 months for healthy mouths.