When is a Dental Cleaning More than Just a Cleaning?Posted Jul 24, 2015 in Dental Health
More than fifty percent of Americans have some form of periodontal disease. The condition is more than just a case of “bad gums”, it’s a bacterial infection resulting from a build-up of plaque that destroys the bones and fibrous tissue that secure the teeth in place. Those afflicted with periodontal disease require more than the the commonly prescribed twice-a-year dental cleanings recommended for patients with healthy gums and levels of bone, at which time, stain, soft plaque, and tartar (hard calculus) are removed. At minimum, those with periodontitis should have four maintenance cleanings per year if they are to keep their teeth. First, however, they need to (pardon the pun) get at the root of the problem.
Scaling and Planing
Periodontitis is a condition that cannot be cured, but it can be held in check. Scaling and planing (or Active Periodontal Therapy as it is titled at Sensational Smiles) is intended to halt the infection below the gum line by cleaning and disinfecting the roots of the teeth, and is always performed using a local anesthetic. By scaling off the hard plaque and smoothing out the root’s surface, the hygienist is removing a foothold for new plaque build up. Depending on the extent of the problem, scaling and planing is usually done one-half or one-quarter of the mouth at a time and, accordingly, requires from two to four visits. However since periodontal disease can be quite aggressive, and studies have shown bacteria returning to high levels within three months of scaling and planing, maintenance visits should be scheduled at three-month intervals.
During a maintenance visit, the dental hygienist will clean the teeth, sometimes hand-scaling each tooth, then disinfect both above and below the gum line. He or she will also measure any pockets between the gums and the teeth, as well as bone depth. If any areas are showing signs of serious relapse, the dentist will be summoned. If maintenance is holding steadfast, a new appointment will be scheduled in three months.
The Big Picture
While most dental plans cover twice-yearly cleanings, patients will have to contribute, out-of-pocket, for scaling, planing and two of the quarterly cleanings. This however is a small price to pay for dental as well as overall health. The health of the gums has been found to have an impact on the heart, the respiratory and reproductive systems, as well as the regulation of blood sugar levels in diabetics. This is why dentists from Sioux Falls to Sioux City to Sault Ste Marie recommend more than just ordinary teeth cleaning for those with gum disease.