What is the difference between a 6 Month and a 3 Month Cleaning?


Our patients often ask us, what the difference is between 6 month and a 3 month cleaning? Drs. Prestipino and Sfondouris will help you understand the differences.

A 6 month adult prophy (basic routine cleanings) is recommended to patients with healthy teeth or those who have Gingivitis (bleeding gums with No Bone Loss around the teeth). If Gingivitis is left untreated, it may progress to Periodontal Disease (bleeding gums with Bone Loss around the teeth).  Patients with Periodontal disease harbor Gram-negative bacteria that live beneath your gums and forms a substance called tarter, (bacteria that has hardened) which is difficult to reach and remove with your toothbrush. As a result, these bacteria can multiply and are responsible for the bone loss around your teeth with eventual tooth loss.

During your 6 month adult prophy visit, the hygienist will clean your teeth and remove the plaque (bacterial deposits), which reside Above the gums.  This procedure is called a Scaling. If you have been diagnosed with Periodontal Disease, we first treat it with a combination of scaling and root planning (Below the gums) in an effort to remove plaque and from beneath your gum line.  This is accomplished under local anesthetic for comfort and is the most conservative approach for initial treatment. Other more definitive treatments may include periodontal surgery, aimed at further reducing the bacteria and possibly regenerating the loss of bone around your teeth.

Why a 3 Month Periodontal Maintenance Visit?

After the disease process is under control, a regular hygiene cleaning appointment is no longer appropriate. Instead, you will require special ongoing gum and bone care procedure, known as Periodontal Maintenance Therapy (SPT). While there is no cure for periodontal disease, it can be managed or controlled. A 3 month SPT is a Soft Tissue Management Program that is a non-surgical approach to Control Periodontal Disease.

According to the literature, the gram-negative bacteria that causes periodontal disease re-establishes within 3 months after treatment(1). A 3 Month Periodontal Maintenance Appointment is critically timed to disable the destructive process at its critical stage. This critical stage is when the bacteria and their poisons do the most harm to the supporting structures, namely, the bone around the teeth. For patients Periodontal Disease, a Supportive 3-month Periodontal Maintenance Appointment is not an option – but a requirement for successful long-term therapy.

Therefore, we recommend that you maintain a 3 month Periodontal Maintenance Schedule, so we can access deeper pocket areas and disrupt the bacteria so that they do not continue to multiply and cause your gums to bleed as well as cause additional bone loss which can result in loose teeth or even tooth loss (2).  Additionally, at this visit, we will evaluate to determine your level of future risk of breakdown, design and implement a custom-tailored program that fits your unique periodontal condition.

But Insurance Only Covers 2 Hygiene Visits a Year

We often hear, “but my insurance only covers 2 hygiene recare visits in a year.” Contrary to this common insurance restriction, we do not determine our patients Recare or Periodontal Maintenance Therapy schedule, nor treatment based on what insurance covers. We make our recommendations based on the actual clinical evaluation and always with the best interest of our patient’s oral health in mind. The insurance companies do not diagnose nor treat any patients, but are a designed as “Discount Plans” aimed to share some of the expenses of basic treatment.

At PDG, our trained dental professionals have many years of experience, recognizing, controlling and treating periodontal disease. We have state of the art equipment to serve you in a comfortable and pain-free environment. With our expertise and knowledge and dedicated staff we are determined to identify your individual needs and set a Recare System that is right for your individual oral health.

Information about the Author: Dr. Tassos Sfondouris is a board certified periodontist and a former clinical assistant professor at the University of Maryland, School of Dentistry.  He is passionate about periodontal and restorative therapies that promote the health, comfort, and function of our teeth. He welcomes your comments and suggestions and encourages you to like him  on Facebook or follow him on Twitter to get the latest unbiased information on dental health topics.


  1. Mobelli, A.  Microbial colonization of the periodontal pocket and its signficance for periodontla therapy. Periodontology 2000;76:(2018),85-96.
  2. Ramfjord S, Morrison E, Burgett F, et.al. oral hygien and maintanence of periodotnal spport. J. Periodontol 1982;53;26-30