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Dental Cleanings: Definitions, Descriptions, and Your Benefits

Consistent dental check-ups and cleanings will help keep your teeth and gums healthy. They also allow your dentist to monitor and catch issues early and fix them beforethey become bigger issues.
Cleanings are important because they remove plaque and calculus that can trap bacteria that cause cavities and irritate gums. Your dentist will develop a treatment plan for you depend ing on any issues in your mouth. A periodontal screening or charting will be done to determine the health of your gums and bone. Each gum pocket will be measured to see how deep it is and whether there is any bleeding, plaque, calculus or bone loss.

For maintenance, your dentist will recommend either a prophylaxis (regular cleaning), periodontal scaling and root planing (deep cleaning), or periodontal maintenance (a cleaning performed after active periodontal treatment such as surgery or root planing).


  • Prophylaxis – is more commonly known as a standard cleaning. Your dentist will recommend a standard cleaning when your gums look healthy. This procedure removes plaque and calculus from your teeth above the gum line that you can’t remove just by brushing.
  • Periodontal Scaling and Root Planing – is a deep cleaning. When your gum pockets are inflamed and more than four millimeters deep, your dentist may recommend the deep cleaning procedure which involves removing bacteria, plaque and calculus from below your gum line where your toothbrush can’t reach.
  • Periodontal Maintenance – similar to a standard cleaning, this maintenance should occur regularly when a patient has had active periodontal treatment such as root planing or gum surgery. It is therefore important to see your dentist regularly so they can prevent the spread of the disease and remove bacterial plaque and calculus.


The factor that will determine your dentist’s decision (or dental treatment) is the condition of your gums. If you have not kept up with routine dental appointments (at least once every six months) or if you have been diagnosed with gum disease, you may require services involving periodontal scaling and root planing or full-mouth debridement before routine care such as standard regular cleanings can or will be provided.

If you have symptoms of gum disease, it’s very important to correct it. Deep gum pockets are out of reach of your toothbrush, and the bacteria accumulation below your gum line will only get worse and could lead to periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease results from progressive gum infection and causes tooth loss in adults. If left untreated, the gum will pull away from your tooth. This causes bone loss, which in turn leads to tooth loss. Periodontal disease has also been connected to heart disease and stroke. Additionally, physicians are investigating a possible connection between diabetes and dental disease.

After a deep cleaning has been done, the dentist may administer an antibacterial agent to help your mouth heal. You need this agent because periodontal disease is driven by bacteria accumulation.

The antibacterial agent, Chlorhexidine, more commonly known by the brand name Peridex, is a rinse to help eliminate bacteria and stave off plaque. Another product that may be used is Arestin, an antibacterial agent that is placed in the gum pocket to keep bacteria away. The copayments for these agents go to the dental plan and are not covered under Inter Valley’s Part D Plan.

Your co-payment for dental services depends on which type of plan you have through Inter Valley Health Plan. To better understand your dental benefits refer to your Evidence of Coverage.

If you have any questions, please call your Dental Health Services Member Service Specialist at 888-645-1261 or for the hearing impaired TTY/TDD 888-645-1257.

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