Oral prophylaxis, or “prophy” as it is sometimes called, is the process of having your teeth professionally cleaned by a dental health care specialist—either a dentist or dental hygienist. Although regular home care cleaning is necessary for maintaining a clean, healthy mouth, only prophylaxis can remove stains and calculus from your teeth. Even the most diligent brusher and flosser can’t remove all of the dangers that build up to erode health, as science is more powerful than nature in ensuring longevity of strong teeth, gums, and bone.
As you eat, a plaque constantly forms on teeth. If not completely removed (which home care only offers a limited ability), it hardens into calculus. It is particularly harmful when it forms at and near the gum line. When this happens, your gums become irritated and begin to pull away from the teeth.
A pocket then forms between the teeth and gums, allowing even more plaque to accumulate on top of the calculus. After a while, irritated gums can become red, puffy, and may bleed. This is the way periodontal, or gum, disease begins. Without proper treatment, it can result in the loosening and loss of teeth! The frequency with which a prophylaxis is necessary to keep your teeth clean is best determined by your dentist or dental hygienist.
NUTRITION AND YOUR TEETH
What you eat also affects how much plaque and calculus result. To plaque, your mouth is just like a candy store. When you eat sweets, germs have all the sugar they want. The more often you eat sweets between meals, the more often the acid will eat away the enamel and dentin protecting the soft center of the tooth. The best time to east sweets is at mealtime and then brush your teeth. Also avoid sticky, chewy candy. You don’t want to turn your mouth into a hotel for unwanted guests (germs). However, you don’t have to stop eating sweets entirely. But you can be smart about what you eat and when you eat it.
ARE STAINS HARMFUL?
The stains which may appear on your teeth are not harmful. However, having stains removed from your teeth by prophylaxis will make your mouth look more attractive and feel clean and fresh. And when your teeth have been made smooth and clean, your dentist is better able to perform a good visual exam of them.
The benefits of a prophylaxis are greatly increased if you floss and brush daily, eat healthful foods, and keep snacking to a minimum.
Additionally, The American Cancer Society recommends that patients have a complete oral soft tissue examination that screens for oral cancer at least once a year. Every hour of every day, one American dies of oral cancer.