Preventive Cleaning (Prophylaxis)
Your hygienist thoroughly removes bacterial plaque, calculus (tartar), and stain to maintain the health of your gums. The goals are to prevent decay and periodontal disease. Also, you receive oral hygiene instructions and plaque removal aids to best maintain a healthy mouth at home. We recommend you have dental cleanings every six to twelve months. The frequency varies depending on the health of your mouth.
Full Mouth Debridement
Removal of a large amount of calculus (tartar,) stain, and bacterial plaque may be required before periodontal treatment or instead of preventive cleaning. Debridement becomes necessary if you go without regular dental hygiene visits for too long. The hygienist will evaluate your needs to determine the right treatment for you.
Bacterial plaque can cause both tooth decay and gum infection. Periodontal disease is a chronic bacterial infection which often progresses slowly, without pain, over an extended period. The longer the disease goes undetected and uncontrolled, the more damage it causes to gums and supporting tissues. Although periodontal disease is caused by plaque, other factors can increase its risk or severity. These include -- food left between the teeth, tobacco use, badly aligned teeth, ill-fitting bridges or partial dentures, poor diet and systemic diseases such as anemia.
Left untreated, periodontal disease not only leads to tooth loss, it also increases the risk of heart disease, respiratory disease, diabetes, and many other conditions, such as (in pregnancy) a pre-term, low birth weight baby.
How Is Periodontal Disease Diagnosed?
We evaluate the health of your teeth, gums and bone support during your regular cleanings and exams. We perform periodontal probing (measurements of dental pockets), and note any bleeding or white discharge, bone loss, recession, or tooth mobility. The early stage of this disease is gingivitis (an inflammation of the gingiva) which is both preventable and reversible. Just as you may develop a cavity between your appointments, you may also develop a gum infection.
Non-surgical treatment of periodontal disease generally requires several appointments with local anesthesia. We perform periodontal scaling, which is the removal of bacterial plaque and calculus (tartar) from pockets underneath your gum tissues using hand instruments or ultrasonic scaling devices. Your hygienist will provide a courtesy appointment for re-evaluation one month after treatment.
The bacteria that cause periodontal disease go through periods of activity and remission. Research shows bacteria which colonize deeper pockets change over time from relatively benign to more destructive types. The disease can be more effectively kept in remission by removing the harmful bacteria more frequently. It is recommended to have periodontal maintenance appointments every two to four months depending on your condition.
For more information, visit the American Dental Hygiene Association at www.adha.org.