pro•phy•lax•is: measures designed to preserve health and prevent the spread of disease.” — Mirriam-Webster Dictionary
Prophylaxis sounds scary, but it is actually one of the most important procedures in dentistry for preventing frightening problems of the mouth. Dental prophylaxis is simply the procedure commonly called a teeth cleaning, or dental cleaning. Just like a physical checkup, the dental checkup, combined with prophylaxis, is meant to guard against illness. In this case, that’s illnesses of the mouth.
More About Prophylaxis
The Greek word phylax, one of the roots of prophylaxis, means “guard.” When we talk about guards, we think about people who protect something by taking action to prevent harm, either physical (as in a bodyguard), or monetary (as in a bank guard). So when one of our Placerville dentists or hygienists performs prophylaxis on your teeth, they are preventing dental harm in your mouth. They are guarding or preserving your oral health by preventing the spread of oral disease.
What Harms My Teeth?
The primary harm prevented by prophylaxis is the growth of tartar. Also called calculus, tartar is basically hardened colonies of oral bacteria, created when plaque combines with saliva. Your dental cleaning removes this tartar buildup, a difficult, and sometimes dangerous, thing to do at home. (It’s not uncommon for people to show up at the dentist with puncture wounds from trying to remove tartar by themselves or with the help of a friend or family member.)
When left to grow uncontrolled, tartar is a common cause of the following problems:
- gingivitis (mild gum disease);
- periodontitis (severe gum disease);
- gum recession;
- jawbone loss;
- tooth loss.
By removing tartar, our dental team guards against the loss of your teeth. Just think for a moment about how important your teeth really are to you. If you still have all of your teeth, what would life be like without them? Skip dental cleanings for a year or two and you may find out the hard way!
What Are Other Benefits of Prophylaxis?
Dental prophylaxis also removes stains that accumulate on the tooth enamel. It soothes gums irritated by tartar. It prevents the progression of tooth decay. And it gives us a chance to determine the health of both your enamel and your gums.
So don’t be afraid when we mention prophylaxis! Guarding against oral bacteria and oral disease is good for you and your teeth! You should have a dental cleaning at least once every six months, and possibly more often if you have heart disease, arterial problems, diabetes or are trying to become pregnant. Sign up now for dental prophylaxis by calling our office or requesting an appointment online!