Sometimes regular brushing just isn’t enough. A good, professional teeth cleaning helps remove plaque that could lead to cavities, gingivitis, or periodontal disease. Professional teeth cleaning, known as “prophylaxis,” is a procedure to remove mineralized plaque or tartar that can develop even with regular brushing and flossing. Tartar usually develops in areas that are difficult to reach during routine brushing of teeth.

What does a dentist do differently that allows them to efficiently clean teeth better?

Routine cleaning

Dentists recommend routine teeth cleanings every six months. Routine cleanings involve the scraping off of plaque and tartar from the teeth. Plaque and tartar deposits can gradually accumulate on the teeth overtime and routine cleanings remedy that buildup.

Plaque refers to a film that can buildup and contains millions of bacteria. This bacteria can cause tooth decay and gum disease if left untreated. Tartar, also known as dental calculus, refers to the calcified deposit on the teeth. Tartar contributes to dental decay.


Debridement is a procedure to remove dense or thick deposits on the teeth. It is done when the tooth structure is deeply covered with plaque and tartar, making it harder to check for infection, gum disease, or decay.

Deep cleaning

Deep cleaning focuses on the removal of plaque and tartar under the gum line. This often involves scaling and root planing. Those procedures involve the scraping of tartar from above and below the gum line and removing the rough spots on the root of the tooth. Left untreated, tartar under the gum line provides a haven for bacteria. The presence of bacteria under the gum line may cause inflammation and infection, resulting in tooth decay or bone loss.