A "regular" cleaning, a root planning procedure, and periodontal maintenance are not the same. This can be confusing for many dental patients. In this article we'll look at the three procedures and explain what make them different from each other and why each procedure is recommended for certain groups of patients. A "regular" cleaning is known as a prophylaxis in dental terms. The American Dental Association describes a prophylaxis as removal of plaque, calculus, and stains from the visible tooth structures. A regular cleaning is recommended for patients who do not have any bone loss, periodontal disease, or infection around their teeth. There should also be no bleeding, no mobility of teeth, no receded areas where the gums have pulled away from the teeth, and no gaps where the spaces around the tooth roots are exposed. The mouth should be healthy with no gum or bone problems. Root planning removes bacteria and their toxins, tartar, and diseased deposits from the surfaces of tooth roots. Scraping or "scaling" is required the full length of the root surface, down to where the root, gum, and bone meet. Root planning is usually one of the first steps in treating gum and bone disease (periodontal disease). After the patient's gum disease has been treated and is under control, regular periodontal maintenance visits are necessary to maintain the health of the mouth and control the disease. Special on-going gum and bone care procedures are performed at maintenance visits. Most periodontal patients require four visits per year for periodontal maintenance. Remember, there is no cure for gum disease.