No one ever said life is fair. We have some patients who visit our office very irregularly – maybe once every two to three years. (Sadly, 34% of all Americans skip their yearly checkup.) When these procrastinators finally come in, all they require is a regular dental cleaning – which focuses on teeth surfaces and the areas between the teeth above the gum line. We have other patients who come to see us twice a year. They brush and floss regularly. Yet, these patients may need regular deep cleanings – to remove bacteria, calculus and tartar that have collected under their gum line. These conscientious patients seem to doing everything right. So, why are they the candidates for deep cleaning?
The truth is your overall oral hygiene is not only dependent on how often you brush and floss. Genetics play a part, as do the medications you take regularly. Are you a smoker? Your saliva might have too much calcium. Patients with diabetes or high blood pressure often suffer more from inflamed, bleeding gums. And, brushing technique plays an important role. Some patients think if the brush touches their teeth, their job is done. No, indeed. Brushing must be done properly to reduce plaque build-up.
Once plaque begins accumulating under the gums, it can harden and become tartar. Gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease, is caused by the toxins released by bacteria in the plaque and tartar. Your gums become red and puffy. They may bleed easily. (Think of the discomfort of having a too-tight shirt sleeve on your arm.) When we see this condition, we recommend deep cleaning. If left untreated, the area could become inflamed, leading to infection, loose teeth, even bone loss.
Here’s how we make the assessment. Our hygienist uses a probe to check for and measure gum pockets. A pocket measuring 4 millimeters or deeper may be a sign of periodontal disease. If your pockets are greater than 5 millimeters, you’ll probably need a deep scaling and root planning appointment. X-rays also show bone loss, which makes a deep cleaning a necessity.
In the procedure, we’ll be using electric or ultrasonic instruments and manual scaling tools. Ultrasonic cleaners force plaque and tartar off your teeth through their vibrations. Any debris that may still be present is removed with the use of a water irrigation system.
Step one, of course, is to come in for your regular cleaning. At this time, we’ll discuss your specific oral hygiene program and answer any questions you may have.