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Everyone knows about the importance of regular home maintenance of our teeth, and although brushing and flossing a minimum of twice a day is imprinted in our minds, few people strictly adhere to these standards. To facilitate the healthiness of our patients’ mouths and lives, Dr. Gudger and the staff here at Lifetime Family Dental are determined to create awareness of how imperative and essential regular teeth cleaning is.
The formal term for a teeth cleaning is Oral Prophylaxis, and it is not merely a helpful tool in oral health, it is a fundamental component of the preventative care which protects and preserves your teeth and gums so that they last a lifetime. Gum disease is easily preventable, difficult to reverse, and can cause ligament and bone damage.
Bacteria are always entering our mouths and building up on our teeth and gums which creates a sticky, colorless film called plaque. Plaque typically resides on our teeth at the gum line, so brushing and flossing frequently and with the proper technique should remove the plague before it can harden. But without the right at-home maintenance, plaque hardens into a rough substance called tartar (or calculus). This is where gum disease, also known as gingivitis, can gain ground and start progressing into periodontitis if you aren’t careful.
Typical Teeth Cleanings
Teeth cleaning at Lifetime Family Dental is performed by a hygienist who begins with an exam using an intraoral camera and a dental probe. The purpose of the probe is to get a “pocket reading,” meaning the depth of the space between your gums and teeth, which is the primary indicator of your oral health. The deeper the pockets, the more advanced the gum disease, and the more danger there is of the ligaments and bone in the deepest portions of the pocket becoming decayed and damaged. X-rays are also taken to look for cavities and further identify any tooth decay that is not easily visible to the naked eye.
If there is no indication of gum disease, no bleeding when probed and no redness and swelling of the gums, then the teeth cleaning process is a simple removal of deposits of bacteria, plaque, and tartar on your teeth and gums using an ultrasonic dental tool. If there is a little bleeding and redness, but not a deep pocket reading, then gingivitis has not progressed to a more serious disease. The focus of the follow-up treatment plan is proper home maintenance and another cleaning in six months. Gingivitis is very common, over 80 percent of Americans have it, and if proper brushing and flossing are resumed, it is not a cause for alarm.
Periodontitis Treatment with Scale and Root Planing
But if the bleeding and irritated gums are also accompanied by a deep pocket probe reading and gum recession, then you are in the early stages of Periodontitis and must correct the situation quickly. This first requires a different kind of teeth cleaning called a “scale and root planing” which is a deep cleaning-out of the plaque and tartar build-up that cannot be accessed without the professional equipment in a dental office. Immediately after this cleaning, an antibiotic is administered in the pockets of your gums to attack the infection at its source. It continues to be effective against the infected areas and inflammation for 30 days and when combined with the scaling and root planing, can assist to destroy the infection and restore tooth and gum health for up to 90 days. Follow-up at this stage requires another visit every three months until the proper health of the mouth has been achieved and the disease has been eradicated.
Without regular cleanings, problems with the health of your teeth and gums cannot be handled before they cause damage. Fortunately, Lifetime Family Dental is trained to handle even the most severe oral health situations, and there is never shame in seeking help. The quicker that you come in for your cleaning, the faster you can get back on track and prevent further damage to your oral health.