Routine Cleaning vs Periodontal Maintenance: What's the Difference?

Learn the difference between routine cleaning and periodontal maintenance to keep your oral health in check.

Joel Wissen

7/27/20235 min read

Beyond the Brush: Navigating Routine Cleaning and Periodontal Maintenance

Preventative and Prescribed Cleanings: Understanding the Difference and When Each Is Necessary

When it comes to maintaining good oral health, routine cleaning is often the first line of defense. However, there are times when more specialized cleaning is necessary to address specific issues such as periodontal disease. Understanding the difference between preventative and prescribed cleanings, as well as when each is necessary, can help patients make informed decisions about their oral hygiene.

Preventative cleanings, also known as prophylaxis cleanings, are typically performed every six months. These cleanings focus on removing plaque and tartar buildup from the teeth and gums before they can lead to more serious problems.

During a preventative cleaning, a dental hygienist will use special tools to remove any buildup from above and below the gumline. Prescribed cleanings are typically recommended for patients with periodontal disease.

This is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone that support teeth. If left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss and other serious health problems.

Prescribed cleanings involve scaling and root planing - a process in which plaque and tartar are removed from both above and below the gumline - to prevent further damage to the gums. It's important for patients to understand that while preventative cleanings can help prevent periodontal disease, they may not be enough for those who have already been diagnosed with the condition.

In these cases, prescribed cleanings (also known as periodontal maintenance) may be necessary to manage symptoms and prevent further damage. Dentists will typically recommend how frequently these specialized cleanings should be performed based on each individual patient's needs.

What Is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums and the bone surrounding the teeth. It is caused by plaque buildup on the teeth, which leads to inflammation of the gums.

If left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss and other health problems. There are two main types of periodontal disease: gingivitis and periodontitis.

Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal disease and can be reversed with routine cleaning and good oral hygiene habits. Symptoms of gingivitis include redness, swelling, and bleeding of the gums.

Periodontitis is a more advanced form of periodontal disease that occurs when gingivitis is left untreated. At this stage, the infection has spread to the bone supporting the teeth, causing permanent damage to the teeth and gums.

In addition to redness, swelling, and bleeding of the gums, symptoms of periodontitis include bad breath, loose or shifting teeth, receding gums, or longer appearing teeth due to gum recession. Periodontal disease can be diagnosed through a comprehensive dental exam that includes X-rays and a thorough examination by your dentist or dental hygienist.

Treatment options depend on how advanced your condition is but could include scaling and root planing (a specialized deep cleaning), medication such as antibiotics or surgery in some cases. Proper diagnosis followed by prompt treatment if necessary combined with routine cleanings will help reduce your risk for developing serious periodontal issues over time.

Periodontal Maintenance

is a specialized treatment for patients who have been diagnosed with periodontal disease. This type of cleaning is more extensive than a routine cleaning because it involves removing bacteria and plaque from below the gum line.

It is typically recommended for patients who have already been treated for periodontal disease and are in the maintenance phase of their treatment plan. During a periodontal maintenance appointment, your dental hygienist will use special tools to remove plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line.

They may also use an ultrasonic scaler, which uses vibrations to break up tough deposits on your teeth. This type of cleaning helps prevents the progression of periodontal disease by eliminating bacteria from hard-to-reach areas.

appointments are usually scheduled every three to four months for patients with periodontitis or those with a history of gum disease. However, the frequency may vary depending on how quickly plaque builds up in your mouth and how well you maintain your oral hygiene at home.

If you have been diagnosed with periodontitis or have had other types of treatments such as scaling and root planing or gum surgery, it is essential to keep up with periodontal maintenance appointments. Skipping these appointments can increase your risk of developing further complications associated with periodontal disease over time.

What to Do If You Are Diagnosed with Periodontal Disease

If you are diagnosed with periodontal disease, it is crucial to act quickly to prevent further damage and tooth loss. Your dentist or periodontist will recommend a treatment plan based on the severity of your condition. In most cases, treatment will involve a deep cleaning procedure called scaling and root planing.

During this procedure, plaque and tartar are removed from above and below the gum line, and the roots of your teeth are smoothed to promote healing. In addition to the deep cleaning procedure, your dentist or periodontist may also prescribe antibiotics to help fight off any remaining bacteria in your gums.

Depending on the severity of your condition, you may need additional treatments such as gum grafts or flap surgery to repair any damage caused by periodontal disease. It is important to follow through with all recommended treatments and attend regular check-ups with your dentist or periodontist.

They will be able to monitor the progress of your recovery and adjust as necessary. Additionally, it is essential that you continue practicing good oral hygiene habits at home including brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and using an antibacterial mouthwash.

Overall, while being diagnosed with periodontal disease can be alarming, prompt action and adherence to prescribed treatments can help prevent further damage and improve overall oral health. Working closely with your dental health professional is key in fighting off this common but potentially serious condition.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What causes periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria in dental plaque.

Plaque is a sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth. If the plaque isn’t removed by brushing and flossing, it can harden into tartar, which can only be removed by a dentist or hygienist.

2. How do I know if I have periodontal disease?

Some common signs of periodontal disease include swelling and redness of the gums, bleeding when brushing or flossing, persistent bad breath, receding gums, and loose or shifting teeth.

However, it’s possible to have periodontal disease without experiencing any symptoms.

3. Can periodontal disease be reversed?

In its early stages (gingivitis), periodontal disease can be reversed with regular cleaning and good oral hygiene habits at home. However, once it progresses to more severe forms (periodontitis), it cannot be completely cured but can be managed with professional care such as scaling and root planing (deep cleaning) and regular periodontal maintenance visits.

It's important to note that prevention is key in avoiding severe cases of gum diseases like Periodontitis. Regular dental visits for routine cleanings are necessary to remove plaque buildup on teeth surfaces before they turn into tartar which leads to gum inflammation and bleeding upon brushing or flossing - signs of early gum problems.


Periodontal disease is a serious condition that affects millions of people worldwide. If left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss, chronic bad breath, and other serious health problems. However, with proper diagnosis and treatment, most cases of periodontal disease can be successfully managed.

In this article, we have discussed the differences between routine cleaning and periodontal maintenance. While routine cleanings are an important part of maintaining good oral health, they may not be enough for those who have been diagnosed with periodontal disease.

Periodontal maintenance involves a more comprehensive cleaning that targets the bacteria that cause gum disease. If you have been diagnosed with periodontal disease or are at risk for developing it due to genetics or lifestyle factors, it is important to seek regular periodontal cleaning and maintenance from a qualified dental professional.

This may include deep cleanings like scaling and root planing and ongoing monitoring of your gum health. It is never too late to take control of your oral health and prevent or manage periodontal disease.

By practicing good oral hygiene habits at home and seeking regular care from a dental professional, you can maintain healthy gums and teeth for a lifetime. Remember that prevention is key when it comes to oral health – don’t wait until you have symptoms of gum disease to seek treatment!