Spring is here! Time to clean out the cupboards, empty the fridge, sweep the cobwebs… and get your teeth cleaned? That’s right. If you’ve fallen off the dental band wagon, it’s time to put your regular dental checkup and cleaning at the top of your spring to-do list.
People often think that brushing and flossing renders regular dental cleanings redundant and unnecessary. Most, however, do not keep their teeth clean enough at home to prevent problems from accumulating over time. Think of your regular dental cleaning as moving the couch, refrigerator, and recliner and cleaning the nooks and crannies that are normally skipped over. Regular dental cleanings are essential for preventing tooth decay, warding off periodontal disease, and maintaining overall health.
Why Dental Cleanings?
The main goal of regular dental cleanings is to prevent tooth loss by preventing periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is an infection of the gum tissues that support your teeth. Periodontal diseases attack just below the gum line, where they cause the attachment of the tooth and its supporting tissues to break down.
The two major stages are gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is a milder and reversible form of periodontal disease that only affects the gums. Gingivitis may lead to more serious, destructive forms of periodontal disease called periodontitis. Periodontal disease often has no warning signs. That is one reason why regular dental checkups and examinations are very important. Below are some risk factors and signs of periodontal disease from the American Dental Association:
Some factors increase the risk of developing periodontal disease:
- Tobacco smoking or chewing
- Systemic diseases such as diabetes
- Some types of medication such as steroids, some types of anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, some calcium channel blockers and oral contraceptives
- Bridges that no longer fit properly
- Crooked teeth
- Fillings that have become defective
- Pregnancy or use of oral contraceptives
Several warning signs that can signal a problem:
- Gums that bleed easily
- Red, swollen, tender gums
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- Persistent bad breath or bad taste
- Permanent teeth that are loose or separating
- Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- Any change in the fit of partial dentures
Types of cleanings
Why do I need 3 cleanings per year and some people only need 2 cleanings a year? Why do I need to be numb for my cleaning? Why do my cleanings cost twice as much as my spouse’s cleanings? The answer: not all mouths are the same… therefore, not all cleanings are the same.
The type of cleaning that is prescribed depends on the health of each patient’s gums (the type of disease and how far the condition has progressed).
– Prophylaxis –
This is a preventative procedure. This is what people know as a ‘regular’ dental cleaning. This is performed on patients with healthy gums or gingivitis. The goal of this procedure is to remove plaque and calculus from the teeth to reduce gum inflammation (gingivitis) and prevent the progression of periodontal disease.
– Debridement –
This procedure is reserved for patients who are getting back on the band wagon. When a patient has significant build up this precursory procedure is performed to remove the excessive calculus in order to enable the doctor to determine which type of cleaning is needed.
– Scaling and Root Planing –
Scaling and root planing is the first line of treatment for patients with mild to moderate periodontal disease.
Scaling refers to the removal of plaque and calculus from the the tooth surface. Root planing involves the smoothing of the root surfaces of the teeth in order to help prevent the attachment of bacterial plaque that is the precursor to calculus. Because this procedure is performed to treat active periodontitis, an anesthetic may be required to make the procedure comfortable enough to remove all that has accumulated.
– Periodontal Maintenance –
This procedure takes the place of the normal prophylaxis for those who’ve been treated for periodonitis in the past. It still involves the removal of plaque and calculus but is performed at more frequent intervals and is usually more involved than a normal prophylaxis due to the previous periodontitis.
Some people require cleanings more frequently than others… and there are a number of reasons why. Compromised health, past periodontal disease, poor oral hygiene, and the type of bacteria that have colonized the patient’s mouth can all warrant more frequent hygiene visits. Some people accumulate plaque and calculus more quickly than others and need more help removing it.
Don’t neglect yourself and your smile. Make this spring your fresh start and let us help you keep your teeth healthy and beautiful! As the saying goes, ‘An ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure’…