What Are The Pros And Cons Of Dental Prophylaxis?

What Is Dental Prophylaxis?

Dental prophylaxis is a medical term for oral health-promoting procedures. This can include anything from dental check-ups to sealants for cavity defense of the teeth.

Dental Prophylaxis Services

  • Dental exams
  • X-rays
  • Cleaning
  • Scaling or root planing
  • Flossing and polishing
  • Fluoride treatments or sealants

Every service gives your teeth a different function. Dental tests check for cavities, gum disease, oral cancer, and more in the mouth. X-rays (also known as bitewings) test for any signs of damage to the tooth. A dentist's cleaning is undertaken to remove the plaque, calculus (hardened decay), and tartar.

Scaling or root planing is a method of cleaning or scraping for extracting teeth from tartar and other deposits, such as calculus. Flossing is said to remove plaque between teeth and food. Polishing requires cleaning with a paste of the form pumice, which removes stains and accumulation of dental plaque.

Fluoride treatments or sealants, usually for kids, are a dental treatment to prevent tooth decay.

Prophylaxis for Kids

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry suggests that children under 12 months of age be given their first dental examination and prophylactic treatment.

Pediatric dentists specialize in treating children who are undergoing dental appointments with apprehension and anxiety. For young children the primary goal of early prophylaxis intervention is to get them used to seeing the dentist early on.


There are many recommendations about dental prophylactic measures, including how often each procedure should be done. How effective are these recommendations? Do they really help prevent tooth decay and gum disease? What does scientific research say? The journal Evidenced-Based Dentistry is committed to measuring the effectiveness of dental prophylactic practices.


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What Is EBD?

Dentistry based on evidence (EBD) includes recommendations or collects feedback from other organisations. The EBD collects evidence of what works and what doesn't work when it comes to dental procedures.

Dentist Visits

One study analyzed data from the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which looked at 36,000 children to determine how preventive dental examinations over time have affected dental care. What the study found was that in the future, preventive visits have been related to fewer dental appointments for fillings and other restorative treatment.

Dental X-Rays

Dental X-rays, also referred to as bitewings, are a standard procedure which accompanies most annual dental prophylactic appointments. Not everybody needs to get annual X-rays, particularly those who have no obvious dental problems, according to a leading expert on dentistry, The American Dental Association (ADA).

Dental Prophylaxis (Cleaning) 

How was the polishing and scraping annually? It doesn't always have to be as it turns out. In fact, the impact of daily dental cleaning — including polishing and scaling — was calculated by one study. The review of eight different studies has given rise to inconclusive evidence as to whether scaling and polishing procedures provide more benefits or harm.

Periprosthetic joint infection resulting from bacteremia (bacteria in the blood) is one such dangerous incident that can result from dental scaling. This is because of the inflammation of the gums, which allows bacteria to migrate from the mouth into the bloodstream. Many studies have shown the existence of bacteremia from dental procedures such as dental prophylaxis immediately following inflammation of the gum. This does not mean however that regular dental cleaning is not needed. There is a whole variety of medication for those who have already undergone joint replacements, or who are otherwise at risk of bacteremic complications, to prescribe antibiotics before dental procedures.

A type of dental prophylaxis is also known to be treating dental patients with antibiotics prior to dental cleaning and/or restorative procedures.

Sealants and Fluoride Treatments

It was discovered during the study by AAP News and Journals Gateway, which analyzed data from the Children's Health Insurance Program, that the use of sealants— and not the preventive dental inspection itself — may have been the primary reason for the long-term protective effects against tooth decay.

Nevertheless, it has been shown that dental sealants can be applied without an actual test by a dentist–usually by a dental hygienist. In fact, this too is more cost-effective. Several clinical research findings have endorsed fluoride treatments, which are also known as fluoride varnishing.

Dental Flossing

Dental flossing (which is usually done by the dental hygienist after scaling and before polishing) is one aspect of the skilled dental prophylaxis protocol. Patients are strongly encouraged to floss at home even daily. Flossing has been found to reduce the occurrence of a condition called gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) when combined with brushing, according to a Cochrane Systematic Reviews report.


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