Female dentist with male patient

Understanding Prophy and Periodontal Maintenance

There are typically two types of cleaning that are related to the prevention or ridding of periodontal disease; prophy and periodontal maintenance. Due to the fact that the cleanings often feel that same to patients, many people don’t know the difference between the two. However, they are two completely different procedures with two completely different purposes.

It’s important to understand what each treatment is and what each treatment is meant for as using the wrong treatment could have negative results. The correct treatment could allow the patient to receive optimal results, clearing up the periodontitis while the wrong treatment could hamper the longevity of favorable results.

What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease, better known as gum disease, is an infection of the structures around the teeth. Signs of periodontal disease include swelling and bleeding gums. If it’s not treated, the infection has the ability to spread, destroying the structures that support the teeth in the jawbone. As the teeth continue to become loose, eventually they may need to be extracted.


Prophy is specifically intended for those that are free from periodontal disease and the procedure should only be done on those that have no signs of periodontal disease. Some of the symptoms that could mean prophy is not the right procedure would be bone loss, bleeding, mobility, exudate, and recession with or without furcation involvement. The fact that this is specifically for patients that don’t have any signs of periodontal disease means that it is strictly used as a preventative measure rather than a treatment.

The prophy process involves the removal of plaque, calculus, and stains from the tooth structure and is intended to control any local irritation factors. The idea is that, rather than ridding patients of disease, it will keep patients healthy.

Periodontal Maintenance

While prophy is for patients that have shown no signs of periodontal disease, periodontal maintenance is meant for those that have already had active periodontal treatment. The treatment is meant to be ongoing to treat periodontitis, a chronic and non-curable bacterial infection. The purpose of periodontal maintenance is to gain control over the disease and maintain it. While periodontal treatment can be effective in the short term, it won’t be in the long term without periodontal maintenance.

For those that receive periodontal maintenance, the treatment will be provided every three months. The reason for this time frame is that if the biofilm is not eliminated or adequately disrupted, the periodontal pathogens congregate and become a dominate species of bacteria in just three to 12 weeks. Studies have shown the impact of periodontal maintenance as those who don’t have periodontal maintenance while undergoing periodontal treatment will lose two to three times more teeth.

If you have periodontitis, it’s clear that periodontal maintenance is necessary to regaining your periodontal health. But what about alternating between periodontal maintenance and prophy? Because prophy is non-therapeutic and supragingival, which is to say above the gums rather than subgingival or under the gums, the two should not be combined if optimal results are to be achieved. Alternating between the two every three months rather than having periodontal maintenance exclusively every three months will have the same effect as if the patient had periodontal maintenance every six months.

There are two factors that will help decide the longevity of the favorability of the periodontal treatment; how effective the patient is at controlling the daily biofilm during home care and whether the patient receives periodontal maintenance every three months. If a patient attempts to alternate between prophy and periodontal maintenance every three months, they won’t have the same longevity of positive results as if they had periodontal maintenance every three months.

Prophy and periodontal maintenance are two very different treatments that are meant for two different types of patients. Using the right periodontal treatment will allow the patient to receive their desired results while the wrong treatment, such as alternating between the two treatments, could result in negatively affecting the longevity of the positive outcomes. To ensure that you’re receiving the right treatments by a periodontist that is well qualified to performance such treatment, it’s important to see one that is board certified. If you have periodontitis and are in need of periodontal maintenance, come to Vero Implants and Periodontics to ensure optimal treatment from a board certified periodontist.