Have you ever heard your hygienist refer to your cleaning as a prophy or perio maintenance? If so, have you wondered what exactly you are getting and the differences between the treatments? These are both different levels of cleaning. They are both very different types of procedures for very different types of patients.
A prophylaxis or prophy by definition is an “action taken to prevent disease, especially by specified means or against a specified disease.”This means it is a treatment done on patients that do not have any signs of active periodontal disease. These cleanings normally include anything above the gumline and are non-therapeutic. Most appointment intervals are 6 months and is best described as polishing the portion of the tooth that is visible.
Periodontal maintenance is a more involved periodic cleaning for people with ongoing gum issues. This type of cleaning is more aggressive and done more often than every 6 months, usually every 3-4 months. This procedure involves removal of plaque and calculus in the deeper pockets that these patients have. Once pockets exceed 4 mm they require the procedure to not only clean the tooth surfaces but also to disrupt the bacterial populations that contribute to the disease. Instrumentation of the pockets achieves both of these outcomes.
Once a person is deemed a periodontal patient they will always require periodontal maintenance cleanings as this disease is never completely stopped only maintained. The shorter cleaning period and the instrumentation below the gumline are proactive measures to slow the disease.