Teeth cleaning, or a prophy, is removing any built up plaque and tartar followed by polishing of the teeth. It takes less than 24 hours for plaque to harden into tartar, or calculus, which is often stuck on the teeth so hard that brushing and flossing cannot remove it at that point. Removal of this helps prevent cavities and promotes better gum health, and is a main key in preventing periodontal disease which can cause bone lose around the teeth.
In cases where periodontal disease has started and calculus is built up below the gums a deep cleaning, or scaling and root planing, may be performed. The gums are numbed and all buildup is removed, followed by antibacterial treatment to disinfect the gums. In severe cases, antibiotic treatment or further gum procedures may be needed.