Prophylaxis (ie regular "check-up" cleaning)
A regular prophylactic cleaning is for patients who do a great job taking care of their teeth at home, get minimal tarter buildup and staining, and who do not have active gum disease. It is recommended by the American Dental Association that these patients should get their teeth cleaned professionally by a dental hygienist twice a year, or every six months.
Scaling & Root Planing (ie deep cleanings)
Deep cleanings are gum disease treatments where the hygienist takes her cleaning instruments under the gums to remove plaque, tarter buildup, infected tissue, and other debris that collects in the gum pockets around the teeth. The roots of the teeth are then smoothed so gum tissue can attach more firmly to the roots, which can decrease the depth of the gum pockets. If you have not had your teeth cleaned in a few years, you will probably need deep dental cleanings. In most cases a patient is numbed with local anesthetic so that the procedure can be done quickly and comfortably. If the pockets around your teeth are many and/or deep, you will then be put on Periodontal Maintenance Therapy. (see below)
Periodontal Maintenance Therapy (ie gum disease therapy)
Periodontal Maintenance Therapies are special treatments that aid in preventing the advancement of gum disease. This special type of cleaning is performed similar to a deep cleaning, but less invasive. Periodontal Maintenance cleanings are performed every three months. (Whereas patients without gum disease are recommended to get their teeth cleaned every six months.) Research states that the #1 way to help gum disease from getting worse is to regularly undergo Periodontal Maintenance cleanings.