Regular cleanings are one of the most common treatments completed in dental offices. During this cleaning, the teeth will get polished and tartar will be removed, leaving your teeth feeling smooth and clean. This type of cleaning is commonly called a prophy. The word “prophy” is short for prophylaxis, which means an action taken to prevent disease.
If tartar is left on the teeth, it will cause the surrounding gums and bone to become inflamed. This inflamed tissue is not only uncomfortable but it will also cause the surrounding bone to pull away from the teeth.
The word “gross” in this situation means general or large-scale. This type of cleaning needs to be done when periodontal probing can not be completed. Periodontal probing is the process of measuring the sulcus pockets around each tooth. In most cases, if your sulcus is 3 millimeters or less, the bone that surrounds the tooth is in good health.
Having a large amount of tartar on your teeth can prevent your dentist or hygienist from getting accurate probing depths. This is when a gross debridement is needed. At this appointment, your hygienist will remove the tartar that is preventing them from accurately measuring the sulcus depth and determining the health of the surrounding bone.
Having accurate probing depths is very important so that your dentist can properly evaluate your oral health and make appropriate recommendations.
After the periodontal probing is completed your dentist might advise that you get scaling and root planing. At a scaling and root planing appointment, the hygienist will clean the root surfaces of your teeth to remove the deeper levels of tartar.
You might hear your dentist use terms like “gingivitis” or “periodontitis”. Gingivitis is the inflation of the gums around the teeth. This can cause pain and bleeding gums. Periodontitis is the swelling and inflammation of the bone surrounding the teeth. This can cause the bone to move away from the tartar on the teeth. Over time, you will have less support for your teeth. This will lead to teeth that move and look very long and unsightly due to the exposed root.