While you may think that all dental cleanings are the same, they are generally either considered ‘routine cleanings’ or ‘periodontal maintenance’. Both are done routinely by a dental hygienist but for different reasons, one is considered preventative service while the other is considered a prescribed treatment.
What is a Routine Cleaning?
Routine cleanings are often called a ‘prophylaxis’ and are part of dental preventative care. From childhood through adulthood, patients without any diagnosed gum disease receive routine dental prophylaxis. Your general dentist usually recommends regular cleanings twice a year, which also include an oral examination. If you do develop a dental problem, those regular check-ups help your dentist detect and treat those problems early and more easily.
During a routine cleaning, your dental hygienist scales around your teeth and slightly under your gums to remove the build-up of plaque, tartar/calculus, and stain. Routine cleanings are for patients with generally healthy gums and help prevent oral disease.
What is Periodontal Maintenance?
If you have ever been diagnosed with any level of gum disease, you may notice that the cleanings you have after treatment are called ‘periodontal maintenance’. Although periodontal maintenance is similar to regular dental cleaning, it is considered a prescribed treatment rather than preventative care. Periodontal maintenance is part of a soft tissue management program that is essential to help continually battle the bacteria that causes periodontal disease.
These prescribed periodontal cleanings are only for patients who have been diagnosed with periodontal disease and have had advanced treatment such as scaling & root planing or periodontal surgery. Once your active gum infection has been treated, periodontal maintenance helps to maintain periodontal stability.
During a periodontal maintenance appointment, your hygienist will remove all deposits like during a routine cleaning but will also clean into deeper spaces under your gums and make sure your roots are free of bacteria before it can reinfect your gums. Professional periodontal maintenance successfully destroys the harmful bacterial growth that infects your gums. Your hygienist and periodontist or dentist monitor your gum pockets at every periodontal maintenance appointment to make sure that your gums are stable.
Why is Periodontal Maintenance Needed More Often?
Keep in mind that there is no set cure for gum disease, only treatment to control it. Controlling the bacterial growth is the best way to manage your disease. And the best way to control bacterial growth is by frequent periodontal maintenance.
Periodontal maintenance is typically needed more than just twice a year because the bacteria that attacks your gums and bone can re-establish the destruction process after just 90 days, which is why periodontal maintenance should be done 3-4 times per year. If a periodontal patient waits too long between cleanings, the harmful bacteria can take over again and begin to damage the structures that support your teeth. Not only that, but bacterial overgrowth in the mouth leads to an inflammatory burden throughout your body that can affect your overall health as well.
Is Periodontal Maintenance a Deep Cleaning?
No, scaling & root planing, which is sometimes called a ‘deep cleaning’ is a non-surgical advanced periodontal treatment that is typically done using local anesthesia and is done in two appointments. It is a therapy that is sometimes only needed once in a lifetime or every few years depending on your initial level of infection and various risk factors.
The periodontal maintenance cleaning is part of the soft tissue management program prescribed 3-4 times a year after scaling & root planing is completed. Periodontal maintenance requires no local anesthesia and is performed in one one-hour visit.
Does Dental Insurance Cover Periodontal Maintenance?
Typically, periodontal maintenance falls under periodontal insurance coverage while routine cleanings fall under preventative dental coverage. While most insurances cover routine cleanings as part of their 100% preventative coverage, periodontal maintenance may have a co-pay just like your other periodontal therapy did.
Although we want to help you get the most of your insurance benefits, we must provide the treatment that is prescribed for your personal dental health needs, which is why if you have had any history of periodontal disease, we must perform periodontal maintenance and use the appropriate insurance codes that demonstrate that level of care.
Because your periodontal health is important to us, our team is always happy to answer questions that you have about treatment needs.